Forage Sorghum

Forage Sorghum


Forage Sorghums are erect, annual, summer grasses. They are widely adapted, but thrive in hot areas. The main stream Forage Sorghums in SA are hybrids and many different types of crosses exist.

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Forage sorghum, scientifically known as Sorghum bicolor, is a warm-season annual grass cultivated primarily for livestock feed. It belongs to the Poaceae family and is closely related to grain sorghum, but it is grown specifically for its vegetative parts rather than its seeds. Forage sorghum is valued for its high biomass production, nutritional content, and ability to thrive in diverse agroecological conditions.

Cultivation: Forage sorghum is grown as a summer crop in regions with warm temperatures and sufficient moisture. It can adapt to various soil types, from sandy to clayey, but it performs best in well-drained soils with adequate fertility. The crop is typically sown after the last frost date in spring and harvested during the vegetative stage before flowering, when the plant’s biomass is highest and nutritional quality is optimal.

Characteristics: The plants vary in height, ranging from 6 to 12 feet tall, depending on the variety and growing conditions. They have stout stems, broad leaves, and a dense canopy that provides ample biomass for fodder. The plant produces numerous tillers, which contribute to its overall biomass production. Forage sorghum varieties may exhibit different growth habits, including erect, semi-erect, and spreading types.

Nutritional Value: It is valued for its high nutritional value, particularly as a source of energy and fiber for livestock. It contains carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals essential for animal health and growth. The leaves and stems of forage sorghum are rich in digestible fiber and protein, making them suitable for ruminant and non-ruminant animals alike.

Uses: Forage sorghum is primarily used as feed for livestock, including cattle, sheep, goats, and horses. It can be grazed in the field or harvested as silage, hay, or green chop for storage and feeding throughout the year. Forage sorghum is often included in forage mixtures and rotations to diversify feed sources and enhance soil health.

Environmental Benefits: Forage sorghum offers several environmental benefits, including soil conservation, erosion control, and water use efficiency. Its deep root system helps improve soil structure and moisture retention, while its dense canopy protects the soil surface from erosion. Additionally, forage sorghum requires less water than other forage crops, making it suitable for regions with limited water resources.

In summary, forage sorghum is a valuable crop for livestock production, providing nutritious fodder for animals while offering environmental benefits and adaptability to diverse growing conditions.

Forage Sorghums are erect, annual, summer grasses. They are widely adapted, but thrive in hot areas. The main stream Forage Sorghums in SA are hybrids and many different types of crosses exist. The most commonly planted types are Sweet-sorghum X Sweet- sorghum- and Sorghum X Sudan hybrids, which are grouped into different flowering dates (early to ultra-late).

Early flowering hybrids usually grow fast, but have a short growing season, while late flowering hybrids grow slower, and have a longer growing season.

Where to use Forage Sorghum

Forage Sorghums are very drought tolerant and can produce with rainfall as low as 350 – 400 mm per year, or under irrigation for more intensive production systems.

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