Grain Sorghum Facts
Grain Sorghum, also called milo, is a member of the grass family. The round starchy seed’s tolerance for heat and drought plays a critical role in agriculture production throughout the state of Texas.
Not only is it an important grain crop, it is also very important as a forage, hay, and silage crop generating over $1 billion for Texas annually.
- Grain Sorghum is one of the oldest known grains originating in Africa and India.
- Benjamin Franklin is credited with introducing the first crop to the United States in the 1700s.
- Before the 1940s, most grain sorghums were 5 to 7 feet tall, which created harvesting problems.
- Today, sorghums have two or three dwarfing genes in them and are 2 to 4 feet tall.
Growing Grain Sorghum in Texas
- Grain Sorghum seeds are planted in rows during the spring, March to April, when soil temperatures exceed 65 degrees F.
- Growth is not very rapid until the plant is about 10 inches tall. This is because the plant is establishing a root system and taking up nutrients rapidly.
- Next, the plant begins to produce leaves and the stem begins to grow. The production of the head that holds the round seeds begins to develop at the top of the plant.
- The new leaves are a brilliant green and the seeds darken to a color depending on variety, usually red in Texas. Other varieties may be white, yellow, or bronze.
- When the grain sorghum plant reaches maturity and is ready for harvest, it is approximately four feet high, the leaves have turned to a light brown, and the seeds have hardened.
- Farmers use combines to harvest their grain sorghum. The combine cuts the seed head off and threshes, or removes, the seed from the head.
- The grain is loaded on to trucks and stored at the farm in a grain bin to sell later or delivered to a local grain elevator where it is then sold to many different industries.
- Grain that is stored in bins must be stored at specific temperatures and moisture content until it is used for seed, animal feed, or sold to industries for food and non-food uses, or to export to another country.
- While most other grains are sold by the bushel, grain sorghum is commonly sold by the hundred weights (cwt – increments of 100 pounds).
- Grain Sorghum is well suited for Texas because it does not require much water and it grows well during the long, hot summers. Most grain sorghum is not irrigated.
- Grain Sorghum is a drought-tolerant, versatile grain with many varieties.
- Some varieties can be used in the cereal, snack food, baking and brewing industries.
- These varieties contain a white berry, and tan glumes on a tan plant.
- Other varieties are used in the US for livestock feed, pet food, industry and ethanol.
- These may include yellow, red and bronze sorghums.
Sorghum’s Food Characteristics
- Gluten Free
- Antioxidant Dense
- Absorbs & Enhances Flavors
- Environmentally Friendly
- Baked Goods
- Grits & Couscous
Grain Sorghum Uses
- The seed can be ground or mixed into feed for dairy cattle.
- The entire plant can be made into high-moisture grain silage when cut at 25-30% moisture.
- After grain has been harvested, livestock can be pastured on sorghum stubble utilizing both roughage and dropped seed heads.
- Pet food manufacturers include this highly digestible carbohydrate grain to their feed formulations.
- Distillers grain, an ethanol by-product, is a valuable feed for both feedlot cattle and dairy cows.
- Used as a substitute for wood to make wallboard for the housing industry.
- Used in biodegradable packaging material that does not conduct static electricity. This is beneficial for the shipping of electronic equipment.
- About 15% of the U.S. grain sorghum crop currently is used for ethanol production with one bushel producing the same amount of ethanol as one bushel of corn.
- Sorghum is the only crop that can effectively be utilized into starch, sugar, and cellulose ethanol production.
- Worldwide, sorghum is a food grain for humans.
- Used in snack foods in the U.S. and Japan such as granola bars and cereals, baked products, dry snack cakes, and more.
- Replaces wheat flour with a gluten-free flour for use in a variety of baked goods.
Worldwide, about 49% of the sorghum consumed is for food. Sorghum provides an important part of the diet for many people in the world in the form of unleavened breads, boiled porridge or gruel, malted beverages, and specialty foods such as popped grain and beer.
Sources: Texas Farm Bureau via txfb.org