What is Growing Sorghum?
Growing Sorghum is a 2-minute daily feature that highlights different aspects of growing the crop in the United States. The focus ranges from crop physiology and pest-management to marketing and end-uses. Sponsored by Alta Seeds, Growing Sorghum airs on ten radio stations across the Sorghum Belt and is available online at: iGrowSorghum.com
Alta Seeds is the premium seed brand of Advanta US, an operating unit of global seed company Advanta. Alta Seeds provides farmers with high-quality hybrids of grain sorghum and sorghums for forage bred from the proprietary genetics of Advanta.
What is Sorghum?
Sorghum (also known as milo or maize) is a grain, forage or sugar crop and is among the most efficient crops in conversion of solar energy and use of water. Sorghum is known as a high-energy, drought tolerant crop. Because of its wide uses and adaptation, “sorghum is one of the really indispensable crops” required for the survival of humankind (From Jack Harlan, 1971).
In the United States, South America, and Australia sorghum grain is used primarily for livestock feed and in a growing number of ethanol plants. Sorghum produces the same amount of ethanol per bushel as comparable feedstocks and uses one third less water. In the livestock market, sorghum is used in the poultry, beef and pork industries. Stems and foliage are used for green chop, hay, silage, and pasture. A significant amount of U.S. sorghum is also exported to international markets where it is used for animal feed and ethanol.
Sorghum has recently appeared in food products in the U.S. because of use in gluten-free food products. Sorghum is an excellent substitute for wheat for those who cannot tolerate gluten. Sorghum is used to make both leavened and unleavened breads. In Sahelian Africa, it is primarily used in couscous. Various fermented and non-fermented beverages are made from sorghum. It can be steamed or popped and is consumed as a fresh vegetable in some areas of the world. Syrup is made from sweet sorghum.
Sorghum is also used for building material, fencing, floral arrangements, pet food and brooms.
Sorghum Production in the U.S.
Sorghum was planted on approximately 7.5 million acres in 2014. Of the 21 sorghum-producing states, the top five in 2014 were:
1. Texas (3.0 million acres)
2. Kansas (2.8 million acres)
3. Oklahoma (.37 million acres)
4. Colorado (.27 million acres)
5. South Dakota (.23 million acres)
The Sorghum Belt runs from South Dakota to South Texas and the crop is grown primarily on dryland acres. Over the years, sorghum has been either exported, used in animal feed domestically or utilized in industrial and food uses. In recent years, sorghum’s use in the ethanol market has seen tremendous growth, with approximately 40 percent of domestic sorghum going to ethanol production.
The origin and early domestication of sorghum took place in north east Africa and the earliest known record of sorghum comes from an archeological dig at Nabta Playa, near the Egyptian-Sudanese border and had been dated at 8,000 B.C. It spread throughout Africa and along the way adapted to a wide range of environments, from the highlands of Ethiopia to the semi-arid Sahel.
The development and spread of five different races of sorghum can, in many cases, be attributed to the movement of various tribal groups in Africa. Sorghum then spread to India and China and eventually worked its way into Australia. The first known record of sorghum in the United States comes from Ben Franklin in 1757, who wrote about its application in producing brooms.
The inherent tolerance of sorghum to marginal lands and environmental conditions, its versatility as a food and feed grain, and its ability to produce high yields ensure its important role in the lives of millions of people throughout the world.