Indigenous to Africa, sorghum has long been used as a food source. The history of sorghum cultivation stretches from Africa to India and China, ultimately reaching the United States in the early 1600s by way of Africa. In the United States, sorghum originally was grown for use as sugar until the 1950s, after which the crop transitioned to a grain crop for the use of livestock grain and forage material. Syrup sorghum is still grown and harvested, albeit to a lesser degree than before. Grain sorghum and forage sorghum grow well in semi-arid environments, and have been substituted for corn crops because of the heartier nature of the plant. To successfully plant sorghum requires having the right climate, carefully tending the soil and paying attention to temperature and seeding placement.
Test your soil before cultivating sorghum and amend it before planting to ensure a pH above 5.6. Lime should be incorporated into the soil in the fall. Phosphate and potash can be applied in the fall or spring. Nitrogen should be applied before planting. Contact your county agriculture agent to learn more about how to identify and treat local soils.
Clear the crop site of weeds by plowing weeds under, applying an herbicide treatment, or by hand weeding. Apply herbicides for weeds such as bermudagrass or nutsedge well before planting. Do not treat Johnson grass with herbicide as the same herbicide will kill sorghum, a member of the same family.
Create rows in size of 30 inches or wide enough to ensure the ability to weed between rows.
Wait until ground temperature reaches a steady 65 degrees Fahrenheit 2 to 3 inches below planting depth. Too cool of temperature, especially in the morning, will reduce the stability of the crop, causing thinner and weedy stalks to grow.
Wet soil before planting. Plant seeds at a depth of three-quarter to 1 1/2 inches, but no deeper than 2 inches, as seeds planted too deep will take too long to germinate. Deposit seeds at a rate of 8 lb. to 12 lb. of seed per acre. Aim for mature plants spaced between 1 1/2 to 3 inches apart.
Things You Will Need
- Crop area
- Sorghum seeds
- Soil pH tester
- Soil amendments
- Tiller (optional)
- Seeder (optional)
- Although row planting has been a standard method of sorghum crop formation, a study cited in the Agronomy Journal found that planting sorghum in clumps of three to six plants "conserves soil water use until later in the season and may enhance grain yield in semi-arid dryland environments."