Sorghum, an economically important grass. It is grown for grain and forage and for the manufacture of syrup, brooms, and brushes. Sorghum is native to Africa and Asia, where it has been grown since ancient times. It is grown in many countries of the world that have tropical or warm temperate climates. The major producers are the United States, India, China, Mexico, Nigeria, Sudan, and Argentina. In the United States, sorghum is grown mostly in the Great Plains and Gulf States areas as an annual, warm-weather crop. Sorghum is planted in rows and cultivated like corn. It is harvested by the use of a grain combine.
Sorghum plants grow from 2 to 15 feet (60 cm to 4.5 m) in height. The long, broad leaves are arranged oppositely along the jointed, cane-like stalk. At the tip of each stalk is a dense flower head, which ripens into a seed cluster. The seeds are smaller than grains of wheat and may be flat, oval, or round in shape and white, yellow, red, or brown in color. Sorghums are hardy plants and can withstand high temperatures and long periods of drought.
There are many cultivated varieties of sorghum. They vary in certain characteristics and are grown for different purposes. Depending upon their use, sorghum varieties can be divided into four groups—sweet sorghums, grain sorghums (including Kafir, Milo, and Durra varieties), forage sorghums (including Johnson and Sudan grasses), and broomcorn sorghums.
The sweet sorghums are also known as sorgos. The sap of their sweet, juicy stalks is extracted to make syrup and molasses. Grain sorghums, which have very dense seed clusters, are a major source of feed grain for livestock and poultry. In Africa and Asia, grain sorghum is a leading cereal crop providing food for humans as well as domestic animals. Forage sorghums, which have very slender stalks and broad soft leaves, are grown for hay and pasturage. In broomcorn sorghums the seeds are clustered on straight, stiff branches 18 to 30 inches (45 to 75 cm) long. These branches are harvested for the manufacture of brooms and brushes.
Cultivated sorghums are varieties of Sorghum bicolor of the grass family, Gramineae.