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What Are the Best Tips for Planting Sorghum Seeds?

By N. Swensson
Updated May 16, 2024
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Sorghum is a type of grain that is grown in the United States primarily to feed livestock, although it is also eaten by people in many other parts of the world. Most of the time, sorghum seeds grow best in hot, dry climates and require less humidity than corn or wheat. As with many crops, most sorghum seeds should be planted in early to late spring, and planting too early or late can affect the crop yield. The seeds should also be planted at the proper soil depth and with enough space between them to help ensure germination and healthy plants, as overcrowding can inhibit growth and encourage disease. Another important factor is use of proper fertilizer, which for sorghum seeds should contain a high ratio of nitrogen to phosphorous and potassium.

Like many other large grain crops in the United States, sorghum is most commonly grown as food for cows and other livestock. The sorghum plant grows in small bunches similar to millet and has grassy leaves like corn. Sorghum seeds, however, are smaller than corn and have different requirements. Optimal growing conditions can also vary depending on the particular type of sorghum seeds that are being grown. Sometimes, farmers grow sorghum seeds instead of corn during seasons when there is little rain and very warm temperatures, because sorghum can better tolerate these conditions.

Like most food crops, sorghum seeds are planted in the spring, with some varieties starting in April and others as late as mid-June. The best time to sow seeds also depends on the regional climate of the growing area and the soil temperature at the time of planting. In general, sorghum seeds in colder climates should be planted later in the spring. Planting too early or too late can affect the growth rate and often results in poor yields.

The planting depth for sorghum may vary depending on the particular cultivar being grown, but is generally around 1 inch (2.54 cm). If the seeds are too close to the surface, they may be washed away by rain or be exposed to too much sunlight. Seeds planted too deep may also not grow properly, because they may not receive enough light or moisture.

Knowing the soil type is important when selecting a fertilizer for sorghum. A soil sample can be analyzed to determine the amount of nutrients it contains. Then a fertilizer should be selected that supplies the nutrients that are lacking. In general, sorghum seeds require a larger amount of nitrogen for optimal growth.

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Discussion Comments
By browncoat — On Feb 01, 2012

@pastanaga - Actually they are currently trialing sorghum as a potential bio-fuel, particularly sweet sorghum.

Sweet sorghum is still used to make syrup in parts of the United States, since sorghum syrup is considered a traditional food, used in the same way that maple syrup is.

But, sorghum syrup is really labor intensive to make and when corn syrup is so much easier and cheaper to produce there's not much point in growing it.

But sweet sorghum is already being used in other places to make bio-fuel because it can be grown in climates where nothing else will grow well, and one of the major problems with bio-fuel is that growing it takes over areas already needed for food production.

So, growing sorghum for that purpose makes perfect sense.

By pastanaga — On Jan 31, 2012

@bythewell - Sorghum is often grown in countries where the farmers can't afford to use fertilizers or pesticides so I suspect it would do very well without them on an organic farm.

Of course, it depends on the climate. Often that kind of chemical help is used when the plants aren't quite suited to the environment in which they are grown and need help to adapt and fight off pests that they aren't used to.

Sorghum needs quite a dry and warm environment, so if you don't live in that kind of area, you might want to try a different crop.

If you do live in a suitable climate though, it's an ideal crop as there are few other staples which are adapted for the same area, and can provide the same nutrients.

Sorghum is particularly rich in protein for a grain as well as several vitamins. Although it gets treated as a "poor mans food" it could be a nutritious part of any diet.

By bythewell — On Jan 30, 2012

Sorghum is a pretty good substitute for wheat if you happen to be allergic to wheat, or if you suffer from coeliac disease.

Since more and more people are deciding to go gluten free I think it's probably a pretty safe investment to grow some sorghum.

The sorghum crop grown for animal feed wouldn't undergo the same kind of processing that they would use for sorghum intended for human consumption so those growers wouldn't necessarily be competition.

And I suspect that many people who are hoping to go gluten free are also concerned with eating organic foods. If you grew your sorghum organically and had it certified, you could probably corner a particular niche market.

Or you could grow the sorghum and make your own gluten free products for yourself or for sale.

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