Sorghum is a member of the grass family. There are many varieties. They are classified into four groups:
Broomcorn is a kind of sorghum grown for the brush or the branches of the seed cluster. Fibers from broomcorn are used to make brooms.
Sweet sorghums or sorgos, have sweet juicy stems. They are grown especially for the production of sorghum syrup. Syrup is made by pressing the juice out of the stems with rollers and boiling it down to the proper thickness. Animal feed and silage can also be made from sweet sorghums.
Grassy sorghums are grown for green feed and hay but can be found in Kansas fields as weeds. Two types that grow in Kansas are Sudan and Johnson grass. Sudan is an annual sorghum grown for feed and hay that grows quickly and can reach 10 feet in height. Johnson grass is a perennial that grows as a weed in the US and Kansas.
Grain sorghums are grown especially for their rounded, starchy seeds. The grain serves as a substitute for corn in feeding animals. Some grain sorghums grow as much as 15 feet high. Farmers feed the seed to livestock or make the entire plant into silage. In Africa, India and China, the grain is ground into flour to make pancakes or mush. Worldwide, common grain sorghums include milo, durra and kafir.
The grain sorghum seed is the smallest of the three major spring planted crops. Early growth of the sorghum plant will usually be slower than corn or soybeans. Growth is not very rapid up to the first ten inches of height of the plant. The plant is establishing a root system and starting to take up nutrients much more rapidly. Shortly after reaching 10 inches in height, the growing point of the plant, which is still under ground or just at soil level changes from producing leaves and produces the head. There are four main parts of the grain sorghum plant: the head, leaves, stalk and roots. (Click here to see a picture of a sorghum plant.)
Since grain sorghum is drought resistant, (can perform well under low moisture and high temperature conditions) it is important to areas of the world that have very little rainfall. It is an extremely important commodity that provides necessary food and feed for millions of people in developed and developing countries.
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