Sorghum bicolor, commonly called sorghum (/ˈsɔːrɡəm/) and also
known as great millet, durra, jowari, or milo, is a grass species
cultivated for its grain, which is used for food for humans, animal
feed, and ethanol production.
Sorghum originated in northern Africa,
and is now cultivated widely in tropical and subtropical regions.
Sorghum is the world's fifth-most important cereal crop after rice,
wheat, maize, and barley. S. bicolor is typically an annual, but some
cultivars are perennial. It grows in clumps that may reach over 4 m
high. The grain is small, ranging from 2 to 4 mm in diameter.
Sweet sorghums are sorghum cultivars that are primarily grown for
foliage, syrup production, and ethanol; they are taller than those
grown for grain.
Sorghum bicolor is the cultivated species of sorghum; its wild
relatives make up the botanical genus Sorghum.
3 Agricultural uses
6 Pests and parasites
7 See also
9 External links
Seed head of sorghum in India
Sorghum with a recurved peduncle trait, Turpan basin, Xinjiang, China
In some varieties and in certain conditions, the heavy panicle will
make the young soft peduncle bend, which then will lignify in this
position. Combined with awned inflorescence, this forms a two-fold
defence against birds.
The leading producers of sorghum bicolor in 2011 were
India (11.2%), Mexico (11.2%), and the
United States (10.0%).
Sorghum grows in a wide range of temperature, high altitudes, toxic
soils and can recover growth after some drought. It has four
features that make it one of the most drought-resistant crops:
It has a very large root-to-leaf surface area ratio.
In times of drought, it will roll its leaves to lessen water loss by
If drought continues, it will go into dormancy rather than dying.
Its leaves are protected by a waxy cuticle.
Richard Pankhurst reports (citing Augustus B. Wylde) that in
19th-century Ethiopia, durra was "often the first crop sown on newly
cultivated land", explaining that this cereal did not require the
thorough ploughing other crops did, and its roots not only decomposed
into a good fertilizer, but they also helped to break up the soil
while not exhausting the subsoil.
Red on white sorghum grains
Sorghum is cultivated in many parts of the world today. In the past 50
years, the area planted with sorghum worldwide had increased 66%.
In many parts of Asia and Africa, its grain is used to make flat
breads that form the staple food of many cultures. The grains
can also be popped in a similar fashion to popcorn.
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
1,418 kJ (339 kcal)
μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams
IU = International units
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for
The species can be used as a source for making ethanol fuel, and in
some environments may be better than maize or sugarcane, as it can
grow under harsher conditions. It typically has protein levels
around 9%, enabling dependent human populations to subsist on it in
times of famine, in contrast to regions where maize has become the
staple crop. It is also used for making a traditional corn broom.
The reclaimed stalks of the sorghum plant are used to make a
decorative millwork material marketed as Kirei board.
Sweet sorghum syrup is known as molasses in some parts of the U.S.,
although it is not true molasses.
In China, sorghum is known as gaoliang (高粱), and is fermented and
distilled to produce one form of clear spirits known as baijiu
(白酒) of which the most famous is
Maotai (or Moutai).
ground and the flour was the main alternative to wheat in northern
China for a long time.
In India, where it is commonly called jwaarie, jowar, jola, or
jondhalaa, sorghum is one of the staple sources of nutrition. An
Indian bread called bhakri, jowar roti, or jolada rotti, is prepared
from this grain. In some countries, sweet sorghum stalks are used for
producing biofuel by squeezing the juice and then fermenting it into
ethanol. Texas A&M University in the
United States is
currently running trials to find the best varieties for ethanol
production from sorghum leaves and stalks in the USA.
In Korea, it is cooked with rice, or its flour is used to make cake
called susu bukkumi.
In Australia, South America, and the United States, sorghum grain is
used primarily for livestock feed and in a growing number of ethanol
In Central America, tortillas are sometimes made using sorghum.
Although corn is the preferred grain for making tortillas, sorghum is
widely used and is well accepted in Honduras. White sorghum is
preferred for making tortillas.
In several countries in Africa, including Zimbabwe, Burundi, Mali,
Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Nigeria, sorghum of both the red and white
varieties is used to make traditional opaque beer. Red sorghum imparts
a pinkish-brown colour to the beer.
Sorghum is one of a number of grains used as wheat substitutes in
gluten-free recipes and products.
It is used in feed and pasturage for livestock. Its use is limited,
however, because the starch and protein in sorghum is more difficult
for animals to digest than the starches and protein in corn.[citation
needed] Research is being done to find a process that will predigest
the grain. One study on cattle showed that steam-flaked sorghum was
preferable to dry-rolled sorghum because it improved daily weight
gain. In hogs, sorghum has been shown to be a more efficient feed
choice than corn when both grains were processed in the same
The introduction of improved varieties, along with improved management
practices, has helped to increase sorghum productivity. In India,
productivity increases are thought to have freed up six million
hectares of land. The International Crops Research Institute for the
Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in collaboration with partners produces
improved varieties of crops including sorghum. Some 194 improved
cultivars of sorghum from the institute have been released.
Research is being conducted to develop a genetic cross that will make
the plant more tolerant to colder temperatures and to unravel the
drought tolerance mechanisms, since it is native to tropical climates
 In the United States, this is important because the cost of
corn was steadily increasing due to its usage in ethanol production
for addition to gasoline.
Sorghum silage can be used as a replacement
of corn silage in the diet for dairy cattle. Other research has
shown that a timely harvest of sorghum is essential for a safe feed
product. The plants need to be harvested during the time when the
plant's total moisture content is between 63 and 68%, to prevent
lodging.[clarification needed] Approximately, this is when the grain
reaches the "soft dough" stage.[clarification needed] More research
has found that sorghum has higher nutritional value compared to corn
when feeding dairy cattle, and the type of processing is also
essential in harvesting the grain's maximum nutrition. Feeding
steam-flaked sorghum showed an increase in milk production when
compared to dry-rolling. When a grain is steam-flaked, it is
cooked slightly, which makes certain nutrients more available to be
Additional research is being done on sorghum as a potential food
source to meet the increasing global food demand.
Sorghum is resistant
to drought- and heat-related stress. The genetic diversity between
subspecies of sorghum makes it more resistant to pests and pathogens
than other less diverse food sources. In addition, it is highly
efficient in converting solar energy to chemical energy, and also in
use of water. All of these characteristics make it a promising
candidate to help meet the increasing global food demand. As such,
many groups around the world are pursuing research initiatives around
Sorghum bicolor): Purdue University,
HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Danforth
Center, and the University of Nebraska, among others.
Another research application of sorghum is as a biofuel. Sweet sorghum
has a high sugar content in its stalk, which can be turned into
ethanol. The biomass can be burned and turned into charcoal, syn-gas,
The genome of
Sorghum bicolor was sequenced between 2005 and
Pests and parasites
Sorghum is a host of the parasitic plant Striga hermonthica. This
parasite is a devastating pest on the crop. The European corn borer
(Ostrinia nubilalis) was introduced to North America via transport of
Sorghum broom corn.
List of antioxidants in food
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Sorghum Checkoff Program
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Sorghum bicolor genome on Phytozome
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and what to conserve ex-situ, regarding
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Biomass heating systems
Cellulosic ethanol commercialization
Energy content of biofuel
Food vs. fuel
Plant List: kew-443283