GROWING SORGHUM

Introduction: Sorghum is the most important cereal crop grown in Uganda after maize and finger millet (FAO, 1995). Sorghum [Sorghum bicolour (L.) Moench] is an indigenous crop to Africa, a purplish red grain that grows at the top of a corn-like plant. It flourishes throughout the country, with a high concentration in the Eastern, Northern and Western parts of Uganda. Furthermore, this drought resistant plant does very in the drought prone areas of Karamojo with a hectare coverage of 80% of the total crop cover.

Sorghum Varieties in Uganda

Sorghum Seredo

  • Light brown high yielding variety.
  • Adapted to almost all sorghum production areas.
  • Drought resistant.
  • Suitable for altitudes below 1500m

Serena

It is a brown seeded variety that does well in bi-modal rainfall areas and matures in 110 days. It has a strong stem and good root system with a yield potential of about 5000kg/ha. It is resistant to striga, rust, leaf blight and grey leaf spot.

NARO SORG 3

Iis chalky white and tolerant to sorghum midge pest. It is good for grain and forage due to the stay green trait.

NARO SORG 2

A red-seed, drought tolerant with minimal or no bird damage on the grain. It is desired for food and brew in Karamoja and West Nile.

NAROSORG 1

It’s equipped with excellent brewing quality, grey seeded in color and drought tolerant. It has stay green trait making it dual purpose for both grain and forage for livestock.

Figure 2:  Sorghum harvesting

How to grow sorghum in Uganda


Soil requirements

Sorghum is mainly grown on low potential, shallow soils with high clay content. Sorghum usually grows poorly on sandy soils with alkaline salts and a PH between 5.5 and 8.5

Suitable in altitude between 1000— 1600m above sea level (medium altitude)

Planting

Sorghum requires a properly prepared seed bed and planting should be done at the onset of the rains.
Very tall local Sorghum varieties require wide spacing 90 cm between rows and 30 cm between plants.

Improved short sorghum varieties require narrow spacing 60 cm, between rows and 20 cm between plants. Row planting is just strongly recommended as compared to broadcasting.

Plant 4-5 seeds per hole and thin to one plant per hole when the plants are about 6 inches or 15 cm high. It is therefore advisable to dress the seed with Thiram or Furadan to reduce attack of seeds and seedling diseases plus soil insects.

WEED Control

Weed control during the first six to eight weeks after planting is crucial, as weeds compete vigorously with the crop for nutrients and water during this period. This can be achieved through physically means(using a hand hoe), culturally(planting in dry seasons) and chemically(using herbicides).

Sorghum harvesting

As the seed heads turn from green to rusty red, they reach maturity and begin drying. At this point daily test them by pinching a grain between the edge of thumbnail and finger.

When the grain is hard and dry you cannot break the grain with your thumbnail then they are ready for harvesting. Cut the seed heads with garden scissors or knife and lay them out on a table in a protected area.  Let them completely dry.

Remove the grain from the seed heads by rolling them hard and vigorously between your palms over the container. Rub them hard to remove all the grain you can.

Winnow the grain. On a mildly windy day or using an electric fan drop the grain held high about three feet or more into a large container letting the breeze carry away the dust and empty hulls (chaff). Repeat this process over and over until  the chuff is eliminated.

Separate the grain out using a soil sieve with an appropriate mesh for the sorghum variety and size grain you have.

Storage

Traditionally sorghum, after harvesting is stored in grannies.

Market for Sorghum

There is high for Sorghum And Sorghum Seeds.  Globally Sorghum and Sorghum Seeds Market were valued at $8,279 million in 2016, and is expected to reach $10,591 million by 2023, registering a Growth at an Annual rate (CAGR) of 3.6% from 2017 to 2023. Geographically, this crop’s market covers regions of latin America,North America, Asia paific, Middle East and Africa.

Locally the demand is high not only for home consumption but also beer brewing. For beer brewing, there are a number of factories that have created an never increasing demand. These include Uganda breweries limited and East African breweries.

Benefits of Sorghum
The benefits of sorghum include the following:

  • Sorghum is a source of income and livelihood through trading
  • Sorghum stem plant can be used as animal feed.
  • Sorghum is used for human consumption for example its used in making Unleavened bread, can be boiled into porridge or sorghum meal
  • Raw materials for brewing beer
  • To make local brooms
  • The stems can be used in protecting or improving soil fertility if well disposed of

Challenges Encountered

  • Limited access to good quality seeds: Most sorghum farmers typically grow traditional varieties which are largely poor quality and low yielding.
  • Lack of access to credit facilities.
  • Lack of unions to produce a uniform voice thus end up fetching cheaper prices in the market.
  • Decreasing soil fertility: Most farmers grow sorghum as a mono-crop, sea-son after season, without any added inputs for soil improvement thus reduction of valuable nutrients.
  • Pest and disease problems: Many pests and diseases are known to attack cultivated sorghum while others can cause considerable losses during storage.
  • Weed problems: Weeds are a big obstacle to sorghum production, especially during rainy seasons. Weeds can multiply very fast and outgrow the sorghum plants.
  • Water problems: Despite its drought tolerance, most farmers in sub-Saharan Africa rely solely on rainfall. But prolonged creates a conducive environment pest attack by bugs, mites and delays maturity.
  • Poor harvest handling can led to contamination and fermentation.

References

Ackerson, B., R. Schemm and D. G. Wagner. 1978. Seed characteristics of different sorghum endosperm types. Okla. Agr. Exp. Sta. MP-103:82.

WHITEHEAD, E. I., and G. F. GASTLER. Hy­groscopic moisture of grain sorghum and wheat as influenced by temperature and humidity. Proc. S. Dak. Acad. Sci., 26: 80 ( 1947)

SHED, C K., and H. H. WALKDEN. Grain sorghum ·storage. U. S. Dept. of Agr. Circu­lar 760.