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Photo by Breno Cardoso: https://www.pexels.com/photo/mother-with-son-in-her-arms-standing-in-a-field-17164609/

Let me tell you about sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) in a way that’s easy to understand.

What is Sorghum?

Sorghum is a type of grain that’s super cool because it can grow really well in hot and dry places like parts of southern Africa. It’s like a superhero crop that can survive in tough conditions and still give us yummy food.

Growing Sorghum in Arid Southern Africa:

  1. Water-Wise Plant: Sorghum is awesome because it needs less water than some other crops. It’s like a water-saving champion! In arid areas where water is scarce, sorghum can still grow strong.
  2. Choose the Right Variety: There are different types of sorghum, and some do better in arid places. Farmers in southern Africa can choose the right sorghum variety that’s tough enough to handle the hot and dry climate.
  3. Planting Time: The timing of planting is essential. In arid regions, farmers usually plant sorghum at the start of the rainy season. This way, the rain helps the seeds to grow and develop into healthy plants.
  4. Conserving Moisture: To help sorghum grow happily, farmers can use techniques like mulching. Mulching means covering the soil around the plants with a layer of straw or other materials. This keeps the soil moist and prevents it from drying out quickly.
  5. Terrific Roots: Sorghum has fantastic roots that go deep into the ground, like reaching down for a refreshing drink. These long roots help the plant find water even when it’s hiding deep in the soil during dry periods.
  6. Harvest Time: When sorghum is ready to be harvested, it’s a real celebration! Farmers collect the ripe sorghum seeds, which can be ground into flour for making delicious foods like porridge or flatbreads.
  7. Food and More: Sorghum is not just about yummy food; it’s also useful for making things like animal feed, brooms, and even fuel!

Growing sorghum in arid southern Africa is a smart choice because it’s a resilient crop that can handle the tough weather conditions. It’s like having a friend who never gives up, even when things get challenging. By planting the right variety at the right time and using smart techniques, farmers can have a successful sorghum harvest and enjoy the benefits of this amazing grain!

Growing lots of Sorghum

Growing abundant sorghum with little water requires careful planning, water-wise practices, and attention to soil health. Here’s a specific and detailed guide on how to achieve this:

1. Choose Drought-Tolerant Sorghum Varieties: Select sorghum varieties that are known for their drought tolerance. Look for terms like “drought-resistant” or “water-efficient” on the seed packets or consult with local agricultural experts to find suitable varieties for your region.

2. Optimal Planting Time: Plant sorghum at the beginning of the rainy season, if possible. This will allow the seeds to take advantage of available moisture for germination and early growth.

3. Proper Land Preparation: Prepare the planting area by tilling the soil to a depth of about 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) to create a fine seedbed. Remove any weeds or debris that could compete for water with the sorghum plants.

4. Water Conservation Techniques: Employ water conservation techniques to retain moisture in the soil. One effective method is mulching. Spread a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or crop residues, around the base of the sorghum plants. Mulching helps reduce evaporation and keeps the soil cooler, retaining moisture for the roots.

5. Planting Density: Practice proper spacing while planting sorghum. Place the seeds or seedlings at a distance of about 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) within rows and maintain a gap of 60-90 cm (24-36 inches) between rows. Adequate spacing ensures that each plant has enough space to access water and nutrients from the soil.

6. Deep Planting: Plant the sorghum seeds at a depth of 2-3 cm (0.8-1.2 inches) to protect them from extreme heat and ensure they have access to moisture deeper in the soil.

7. Efficient Irrigation: If you have access to water for irrigation, use it wisely. Employ water-saving techniques such as drip irrigation or soaker hoses, which deliver water directly to the roots, reducing evaporation. Avoid overhead sprinklers, as they waste water through evaporation and can promote disease in the plants.

8. Fertilization and Soil Health: Prioritize soil health to enhance water retention and nutrient availability. Use organic matter, like compost or well-rotted manure, to improve soil structure and water-holding capacity. Adequate soil nutrients support the sorghum plants during dry periods.

9. Weeding and Pest Control: Keep the planting area free from weeds that compete for water and nutrients with the sorghum. Employ eco-friendly pest control methods to minimize damage caused by pests without harming beneficial insects.

10. Timely Harvesting: Harvest sorghum at the right time when the grain is fully mature but before it begins to shatter (seeds falling off the plant). Proper timing ensures maximum grain yield and quality.

By following these specific and detailed methods, you can grow abundant sorghum even with limited water resources. Remember to adapt these practices to your specific local conditions and consult with local agricultural experts for additional advice. Happy farming!

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