Cultivated sorghum, Common sorghum: plant, cultivate, harvest

Cultivated sorghum, Sorghum bicolor is an important, gluten-free food grain, with many other uses including in a garden. Selected for temperate climates, it can be an excellent alternative to corn, just as productive, but less water intensive.

Sorghum cultiv, Common sorghum, Sorghum bicolor


Scientific N. Sorghum bicolor

Origin Africa

Flowering july september

Flowers yellow mullet

Typecereal grass, forage, possibly ornamental

Vegetationannual or very short perennial

Foliage lapsed

Height1 4m

Plant and cultivate

Hardiness growth outside of frost periods

Exposition soleil


Acidity basic acid

Humidity prefers a normal cool soil, but tolerates drought

Useagriculture, soil improvement, seeds

Plantationlate spring


Sorgho cultiv

Sorghum bicolor, common or cultivated sorghum is a domestic cereal belonging to the family Poaceae, so a grass in the strict sense. Its birthplace is African, although we do not really know its precise origin as it has been cultivated for a long time and again escaped cultures in a wild form.

This tropical annual, the 5e most consumed cereal in the world, widely used in Africa, takes its role in agriculture in temperate climates, now spreading as far as Canada. Many varieties and hybrids exist, some of which are able to complete their vegetative cycle in colder climates. In France, sorghum is cultivated in a intensive in the south-east.

Description of common sorghum

Sorghum bicolor is a tall and narrow plant, monotige, generally annual, but sometimes lively short-lived: it germinates, flowers, produces seeds and dies. In some tropical regions, 2 harvests are possible per year.

Common sorghum rises from 1 to 4 m, rarely exceeding 3 m in Europe. It produces a strong, hairy root that goes deep into the soil.

Its sturdy ducks bear alternate leaves, 30 to 100 cm long and 2 cm wide, glabrous and covered with a waxy bloom, which limits water loss.

The spikelet flowers more or less dense and imposing depending on the variety are tiny, but numerous. They produce a very abundant pollen who attracts foraging insects. Autofertile sorghum is pollinated 70% by wind and 30% by insects.

L’inflorescence, imposing, becomes ornamental (we make it dry bouquets) taking colors as the season progresses. In some varieties they turn purple in grain.

The seeds are about 4 mm, they are first milky, then pasty, but soft, and finally hard, mature in about 30 days after flowering.

Sorghum is a C4 plant, possessing a metabolism adapted to support water deficits.

It exists more than 70 varieties of sorghum as well as F1 hybrids distributed by seed companies. The varieties depend on the type of harvest you expect, grain, leaves, sugar … but also adapted to different climates, tropical or temperate. In addition, among the cultivable varieties in France, there will be early, semi-early and late ones. The late ones are suitable for the south-east, the early ones will be interesting in the north.

Use of cultivated sorghum

  • Excellent biomass producer, sorghum is used in bioenergy culture possibly for the production of ethanol.

  • The seeds of cultivated sorghum are used in flour (very white) and are used in the production of bread, cereals for breakfast, but also pastries, beers and other preparations which can then be considered gluten-free. The seeds can be cooked and eaten like rice. They are also often used fermented (drink). The sprouted seed is interesting and there is also popcorn sorghum.

  • In a garden, the seeds are harvested ripe (hard stage). The ears are collected whole and then left to dry for 1 week, before separating the seeds from the straws.

  • The seeds can also be used in livestock feed. Likewise, ‘leafy’ sorghum is grown to produce fodder. Fresh foliage is poisonous, but becomes harmless and nourishing when dried or turned into silage.

  • A syrup is made from varieties of sugar sorghum, white sorghum or sweet sorghum : the canes are cut flush with the ground when the grain is at the milky stage. The leaves are then crushed and pressed to extract the syrup.

  • A type of sorghum, with long inflorescences is cultivated for its fiber, especially for making brooms.

  • In a garden, sorghum is a tall and rather decorative grass, planted in the flower beds, but which can also be used to occupy a land to improve it while you develop your garden, or even if the land has been deconstructed by heavy work; it will not or very rarely reseed spontaneously in temperate climates.

Sorghum ecology

  • he maintains beneficial relationships, even symbiosis with of chrysopes, beetles, drawing pins and ladybugs, syrphes and number hymenoptera, dont the bees which collect pollen there around 7 am, when the flowers are at their optimum blooming.

  • it feeds a number of insects

Soil improvement

  • sorghum can have a allopathic effect on posterior cultures ; it produces chemical elements which favor, for example, wheat in the fields or vegetables transplanted in the kitchen garden by limiting the germination of weeds.

  • Besides, its very developed roots have a decompacting effect. Within the framework of a use in the garden to improve the soil, it will be necessary to avoid the contributions of phytosanitary products andfertilizer, so that the rhizosphere can repopulate as much as possible. Then, letting the foliage decompose on the earth will naturally enrich it with nitrogen.

How is sorghum grown?

Sorghum does believes that during the hot season : the dies below 3 ° C, and stops growing below 8 ° C. He claims a exposition sunny and warm. Apart from these requirements, it supports a bit of everything: salty, acidic or limestone soil (varieties specializing in basic soil) as well as any type of soil: loamy, sandy or clayey.

The tolerates being momentarily flooded, but also particularly well the droughts, with its C4 metabolism, its deep rooting and its blooming leaves. If it’s really too dry, it pauses, and starts again after the first rain.

bicolor sorghum does not germinate until the soil has warmed to 12 ° C, it will therefore be sown in the ground in May / June. The seeds are sown in pockets of 4, buried 3 cm and spaced 30 cm apart.

For a few decorative plants or a small harvest in the garden, sorghum can be hastily potted inside. The seeds germinate very quickly at 20 ° C or more. As soon as possible, the seedlings are transplanted individually into a pot and placed in full light, then installed in the garden from the end of May to June.

Species and varieties of Sorghum

About thirty species in this genus

  • Sorghum halepense, Aleppo sorghum
  • Sorghumrhizomatous plant

Source: Au Jardin, conseils en jardinage by

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