Definitions

sorghum

sorghum

[sawr-guhm]
sorghum, tall, coarse annual (Sorghum vulgare) of the family Gramineae (grass family), somewhat similar in appearance to corn (but having the grain in a panicle rather than an ear) and used for much the same purposes. Probably indigenous to Africa, it is one of the longest-cultivated plants of warm regions there and also in Asia—especially in India and China. Because of its extreme drought resistance (because of the unusually extensive branching root system) and its ability to withstand hotter climates than corn, sorghum has been introduced to the United States and other regions.

The innumerable varieties are generally classified as the sweet sorghums or sorgos, yielding sorghum syrups and molasses from the cane juice; the broomcorns, yielding a fiber from the inflorescence that is used for making brooms; the grass sorghums (e.g., Sudan grass), used for pasture and hay; and the grain sorghums, e.g., durra, feterita, kaffir or kaffir corn, kaoliang, milo or milo maize, and shallu. The pulverized grain is used for stock and poultry feeds and, in the Old World, for food. Sorghums also provide cover crops and green manures, grain substitutes for many industrial processes that employ corn, and fuel and weaving material from the stems.

In the United States, sorghum is grown throughout the Great Plains area and in Arizona and California; about half the crop is used for forage and silage and half for feed grains. Only a small amount is grown for syrup, most of which is consumed locally. Johnson grass (S. halapense), a perennial native to the Mediterranean that is similar to Sudan grass, is naturalized in the United States, especially in the Southwest. It is a noxious weed in cultivated fields but is also used as a forage crop.

Sorghum is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Cyperales, family Gramineae.

See bulletins of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Cereal grain plant of the family Poaceae (or Gramineae), probably native to Africa, and its edible starchy seeds. All types raised chiefly for grain belong to the species Sorghum vulgare, which includes varieties of grain sorghums and grass sorghums (grown for hay and fodder), and broomcorn (used in making brooms and brushes). The strong grass usually grows 2–8 ft (0.5–2.5 m) or higher. The seeds are smaller than those of wheat. Though high in carbohydrates, sorghum is of lower feed quality than corn. Resistant to drought and heat, sorghum is one of Africa's major cereal grains. It is also grown in the U.S., India, Pakistan, and northern and northeastern China. Substantial quantities are also grown in Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, Argentina, Australia, and southern Europe. The grain is usually ground into meal for porridge, flatbreads, and cakes.

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Sorghum is a genus of numerous species of grasses, some of which are raised for grain and many of which are used as fodder plants either cultivated or as part of pasture. The plants are cultivated in warmer climates worldwide. Species are native to tropical and subtropical regions of all continents in addition to the South West Pacific and Australasia. Sorghum is in the subfamily Panicoideae and the tribe Andropogoneae (the tribe of big bluestem and sugar cane).

For more specific details on commercially exploited Sorghum see commercial sorghum.

Cultivation and uses

Numerous Sorghum species are used for food (as grain and in sorghum syrup or "sorghum molasses"), fodder, the production of alcoholic beverages, as well as biofuels. Most species are drought tolerant and heat tolerant and are especially important in arid regions. They form an important component of pastures in many tropical regions. Sorghum species are an important food crop in Africa, Central America, and South Asia and is the "fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world".

A sorghum species, Johnson Grass, is classified as a noxious weed.

The reclaimed stalks of the sorghum plant are used to make a decorative millwork material marketed as Kirei board.

Some species of sorghum can contain levels of hydrogen cyanide, hordenine and nitrates lethal to grazing animals in the early stages of the plant's growth. Stressed plants, even at later stages of growth, can also contain toxic levels of cyanide.

In India, and other places, Sweet Sorghum stalks are used for producing bio-fuel by squeezing the juice and then fermenting into ethanol. Texas A&M University in the United States is currently running trials to produce the best varieties for ethanol production from sorghum leaves and stalks in the USA.

Species

Hybrids

  • Sorghum × almum
  • Sorghum × drummondii

Footnotes

References

  • Watson, Andrew M. Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World: The Diffusion of Crops and Farming Techniques, 700–1100. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. ISBN 052124711X.

External links

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