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Sorghum bicolor - (L.)Moench.

Common Name Sorghum, Common wild sorghum, Grain sorghum, Sudangrass
Family Poaceae or Gramineae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards The immature plant is poisonous, especially if slightly wilted, since it can contain the toxins hydrogen cyanide and the alkaloid hordenine[4, 142, 269]. These substances are destroyed if the plant is dried or made into silage[269]. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Habitats Not known in the wild.
Range Original habitat is obscure.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Frost Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Sorghum bicolor Sorghum, Common wild sorghum, Grain sorghum, Sudangrass

Sorghum bicolor Sorghum, Common wild sorghum, Grain sorghum, Sudangrass


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Sorghum bicolor is a ANNUAL growing to 5 m (16ft 5in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 8. It is in flower from August to October, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


S. saccharatum. S. vulgare. Andropogon sorghum. Holcus bicolor. H. sorghum.

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed  Stem
Edible Uses: Colouring  Sweetener

Seed - raw or cooked. It is used as a whole grain in similar ways to rice, it can be popped much like popcorn, or can be ground into a flour and made into bread etc[2 , 4 , 57 , 162 , 183 ]. The ground seed yields a particularly white flour[7 ]. Sorghum is a staple food in some regions, where it is often fermented (lactic acid fermentation) before being eaten[183 ]. The sprouted seed can be eaten raw, and is sometimes added to salads[183 ]. The seed is germinated, then dried and ground into a powder to form malt, which is used as a substratum for fermentation in local beer production[299 ]. Stems - cooked[105 ]. Some caution is advised here, there are some reports that the leaves can contain the poison cyanide[4 ]. The stems of sweet sorghum types are chewed like sugar cane and, mainly in the United States, a sweet syrup is pressed from them[299 ]. Sap - raw or cooked. Very sweet, it is made into a syrup[1 , 2 , 46 , 57 , 257 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Seed (Dry weight)
  • 342 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 12%
  • Protein: 10g; Fat: 3.7g; Carbohydrate: 72.7g; Fibre: 2.2g; Ash: 1.5g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 22mg; Phosphorus: 242mg; Iron: 3.8mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 8mg; Potassium: 44mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 0mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.33mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.18mg; Niacin: 3.9mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;
  • Reference: [ 269]
  • Notes:

Medicinal Uses

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Antibacterial  Antifungal  Astringent  Demulcent  Diuretic  Haemostatic  Kidney  Urinary

The decoction of the seed is demulcent and diuretic[4 ]. It is used in the treatment of kidney and urinary complaints[4 , 299 ]. The inflorescence is astringent and haemostatic[7 ]. The leaves and panicles are included in plant mixtures for decoctions used in the treatment of anaemia[299 ]. Decoctions of the twigs, combined with lemon, is used as a treatment against jaundice[299 ]. The red pigment is said to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties. It is used as a treatment for anaemia[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Adhesive  Biomass  Biomass  Broom  Brush  Dye  Fencing  Fuel  Hair  Roofing  Tannin  Weaving

The flowering panicles, especially of cultivars specially bred for the purpose, are used as brushes, brooms, whisks etc[1 , 2 , 4 , 46 , 57 ]. Several non-edible sorghum cultivars are exclusively grown for the red pigment present in the leaf sheaths and sometimes also in adjacent stem parts. It is used as a dye for mats, textiles, strips of palm leaves and grasses used in basketry and weaving, ornamental calabashes, wool, as a body paint and to colour cheese and lick stones for cattle[299 ]. A similar dye can be extracted from the grain refuse (glumes and grain wall) of several red sorghum cultivars grown for food or for beer-making[299 ]. The red sorghum dyes were traditionally used as a funeral hanging, decorated with patterns made by thick threads added to the weft of the fabric. The fabrics in which the dominant colours were derived from sorghum were known as ‘ifala’. Sorghum is also used to provide the violet colours decorating the masks worn during certain dances. Sorghum and other tannin-rich dyes are used in combination with mud to create the patterns of the painted cloths produced in the Korhogo region. The dye was extracted by squeezing out the juice, which was then fermented. Used with wool or silk mordanted with tin or chrome, the result was a colourfast red-brown. Recently the use of sorghum dye in hair dying products has been patented[299 ]. Sorghum flour is used to produce an adhesive that is used in the manufacture of plywood[299 ]. Stems are used for weaving fences, mats, wattle houses etc[178 ]. Sorghum plant residues are used extensively as material for roofing, fencing, weaving and as fuel[299 ]. The plant is an excellent source of biomass[269 ]. The stems can be used for the production of fibreboard. Danish scientists have made good panelling using stem chips of sorghum[299 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A fairly easily grown plant, though it is on the edges of its climatic zone in Britain. It requires a warm, sheltered and sunny position[160], preferring a slightly to moderately acid soil[160, 269], though some cultivars have succeeded with a pH as high as 8[269]. Plants are adapted to a wide range of soils varying from light loams to heavy clays, they thrive best on light, easily worked soils of high fertility, with moderate to high availablility of water[269]. Moderately well-drained soils are suitable for sorghums[269]. Small amounts of alkali in sand reduces performance considerably[269]. Plants are moderatley tolerant of saline soils[269]. Established plants are very drought resistant, they succeed in arid soils[171]. A nitrogen rich soil causes the plants to lodge[160]. Plants are reported to tolerate an annual precipitation in the range of 20 to 410cm, an annual temperature in the range of 7.8 to 27.8°C and a pH of 4.3 to 8.7[269]. Sorghum is widely cultivated in tropical and warm temperate zones for its edible seed, as well as for its panicles (which are used as brooms) and the syrup obtained from its sap. Yields of around 6 tonnes per hectare have been achieved, though yields as low as 200 kilos have been reported - yields below 2 tonnes are not considered financially viable[269].There are many named varieties[4, 50, 61, 183]. Some cultivars are short-day plants and are unlikely to produce flowers and seed away from the tropical zone[269]. Plants are adapted to tropical and subtropical summer rainfall climates with rainfall from 25 - 125 cm annually, they are of little importance in more humid areas with higher rainfall[269]. It is grown in Britain as a tender bedding plant but requires a long hot summer if it is to ripen its seed here[200]. In warmer climates it takes 3 months from sowing to seed harvest[160].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow April in a greenhouse and only just cover the seed. Germination should take place within 2 weeks if given a minimum germination temperature of 23°c[160]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and plant them out after the last expected frosts. Consider giving them some protection, such as a cloche, until they are growing away strongly.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Amapemba, Bambaram-basso, Basse-bassi, Broomcorn, Buadoti, Cantel, Chidomba, Chipira, Dawa, Durra, Egyptian corn, Feterita, Forage sorghum, Gonkho, Grain sorghum, Great millet, Guinea corn, Hamo, Indian millet, Jagung catel, Jerusalem corn, Jowar, Kaffir-corn, Mapemba, Mapila, Midjo-cabal, Milho-cavalo, Milo, Namuve, Nhame-quinto, Pampas rice, Quinterim, Rice corn, Susu, bachanta, broom-corn, broomcorn, daza, durra, egyptian millet, feterita, forage sorghum, gao liang, gewöhnliche mohrenhirse, grain sorghum, great millet, gros mil, jowar, jowari, kaffir-corn, karal iringu, milo, morokoshi, nickende mohrenhirse, okababa, poroporo, shallu, shatter cane, sorgho, sorghum, sorgo, sudangrass, susu, sweet sor.

Africa, Arabia, Argentina, Asia, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burma, Central Africa, Central African Republic, Central America, Chad, China, Congo DR, Congo, Cuba, East Africa, East Timor, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Ghana, Guatemala, Guiana, Guinea, Guinée, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Korea, Laos, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, North Africa, North America, Northeastern India, Pacific, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Uganda, United States, USA, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virgin Islands, West Africa, West Indies, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Least Concern

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Sorghum halepenseJohnson GrassPerennial2.0 7-10 FLMHNDM313
Sorghum hybridsPerennial SorghumPerennial3.0 7-12 FLMHNDM413

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

EMMANUEL LAWRENCE AGI   Sat Nov 6 13:44:16 2004

Having been oportuned to comment on this site, I want to state that in Nigeria,this plant is used as a raw material in brewing alcoholic beverages (beer). So please add this to your uses of Sorghum bicolor. EMMANUEL LAWRENCE AGI.


Also in Nigeria the parnicle is been used as animal(livestock) feed. I want to know if the parnicle is also being use as animal feed in developed countries expecially the European Countries?

solomon tesfay   Wed Oct 15 2008

would you please! help me on my resarch "Screening of sorgum (sorghum bicolor)landraces based on water deficit tolerance.

Amanda Rofe   Wed Oct 22 2008

I grew sorghum vulgare in a sheltered sunny spot in my garden in Kent in 2006. It grew easily and rapidly and the seed ripened OK. It needs to be treated much like sweetcorn if you want to grow it in the UK. I don't really understand why we don't grow it more, particularly in the south of England. I've saved some seed and will try it again. I obtained my seeds from Chiltern Seeds in Ulverston, Cumbria and I believe they are still selling them.

Emmanuel Uti   Sat Sep 12 2009

Sir, I want Sorghum Bicolor seeds.I am in Nigeria I wish to plant the seeds in Nigeria,so any person who wishes to conact me.+2348035418285

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