Sorghum (/ˈsɔːrɡəm/) is a genus of about 25 species of flowering plants in the grass family (Poaceae). Some of these species are grown as cereals for human consumption and some in pastures for animals. One species is grown for grain, while many others are used as fodder plants, either cultivated in warm climates worldwide or naturalized in pasture lands.[2]

Sorghum bicolor
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Panicoideae
Supertribe: Andropogonodae
Tribe: Andropogoneae
Subtribe: Saccharinae
Genus: Sorghum
Moench 1794, conserved name not Sorgum Adanson 1763
Type species
Sorghum bicolor
(L.) Moench
  • Blumenbachia Koeler 1802, rejected name not Schrad. 1825 (Loasaceae)
  • Sarga Ewart
  • Vacoparis Spangler
  • Andropogon subg. Sorghum Hackel.


Sorghum is in the Poaceae (grass) subfamily Panicoideae and the tribe Andropogoneae (the same as maize, big bluestem and sugarcane).


Accepted species recorded include:[3]

Sorghum at a West African market
  • Sorghum amplum – northwestern Australia
  • Sorghum angustum – Queensland
  • Sorghum arundinaceum – Africa, Indian Subcontinent, Madagascar, islands of the western Indian Ocean
  • Sorghum bicolor – cultivated sorghum, often individually called sorghum, also known as durra, jowari, or milo. Native to Sahel region of Africa; naturalized in many places
  • Sorghum brachypodum – Northern Territory of Australia
  • Sorghum bulbosum – Northern Territory, Western Australia
  • Sorghum burmahicum – Thailand, Myanmar
  • Sorghum controversum – India
  • Sorghum × drummondii – Sahel and West Africa
  • Sorghum ecarinatum – Northern Territory, Western Australia
  • Sorghum exstans – Northern Territory of Australia
  • Sorghum grande – Northern Territory, Queensland
  • Sorghum halepense – Johnson grass – North Africa, islands of eastern Atlantic, southern Asia from Lebanon to Vietnam; naturalized in East Asia, Australia, the Americas
  • Sorghum interjectum – Northern Territory, Western Australia
  • Sorghum intrans – Northern Territory, Western Australia
  • Sorghum laxiflorum – Philippines, Lesser Sunda Islands, Sulawesi, New Guinea, northern Australia
  • Sorghum leiocladum – Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria
  • Sorghum macrospermum – Northern Territory of Australia
  • Sorghum matarankense – Northern Territory, Western Australia
  • Sorghum nitidum – East Asia, Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, Micronesia
  • Sorghum plumosum – Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia
  • Sorghum propinquum – China, Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, Christmas Island, Micronesia, Cook Islands
  • Sorghum purpureosericeum – Sahel from Mali to Tanzania; Yemen, Oman, India
  • Sorghum stipoideum – Northern Territory, Western Australia
  • Sorghum timorense – Lesser Sunda Islands, Maluku, New Guinea, northern Australia
  • Sorghum trichocladum – Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras
  • Sorghum versicolor – eastern + southern Africa from Ethiopia to Namibia; Oman
  • Sorghum virgatum – dry regions from Senegal to the Levant.

Distribution and habitat

Seventeen of the 25 species are native to Australia,[4][5] with the range of some extending to Africa, Asia, Mesoamerica, and certain islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.[6][7]


Sorghum production – 2022[8]
Country Production (metric tonnes)
Nigeria 7,000
USA 5,989
Sudan 5,000
Mexico 4,850
Ethiopia 4,500
India 4,400
Others 28322
Total 60,061

Nigeria accounts for 12% of world product and USA accounts 10%. While other major producing countries are Sudan, Mexico, Ethiopia, India, Argentina, China and Brazil.


In the early stages of the plants' growth, some species of sorghum can contain levels of hydrogen cyanide, hordenine, and nitrates, which are lethal to grazing animals. Plants stressed by drought or heat can also contain toxic levels of cyanide and nitrates at later stages in growth.[9][10]


The grains are edible and nutritious. It can be eaten raw when young and milky, but has to be boiled when older.[11]

One species, Sorghum bicolor,[12] native to Africa with many cultivated forms,[13] is an important crop worldwide, used for food (in the form of grain or sorghum syrup), animal fodder, the production of alcoholic beverages, and biofuels. Sorghum's cultivation has been linked by archeological research back to ancient Sudan around 6,000 to 7,000 BP.[14]

All sorghums contain phenolic acids, and most contain flavonoids.[15] Sorghum grains are one of the highest food sources of the flavonoid proanthocyanidin.[16] Total phenol content (in both phenolic acids and flavonoids) is correlated with antioxidant activity.[15] Antioxidant activity is high in sorghums having dark pericarp and pigmented testa.[15] The antioxidant activity of sorghum may explain the reduced incidence of certain cancers in populations consuming sorghum.[15]

In India Sorghum (Jowar) is dailyfood. Paratha and Roti is made by Jowar flour.

Popped sorghum is popular as a snack in India. The popped sorghum is similar to popcorn, but the puffs are smaller.[17] Like popcorn, popping sorghum is done by microwave, in a pot, or other similar ways. It may also be used as a flavoring for clarified butter (ghee).

In China, sorghum flour is used in combination with wheat flour to make noodles and breads.[18]

Most varieties are drought- and heat-tolerant, nitrogen-efficient,[19] and are especially important in arid and semi-arid regions, where the grain is one of the staples for poor and rural people. These varieties form important components of forage in many tropical regions. S. bicolor is an important food crop in Africa, Central America, and South Asia, and is the fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world.[20][21]

Role in global economy

Global demand for sorghum increased dramatically between 2013 and 2015, when China began purchasing US sorghum crops to use as livestock feed as a substitute for domestically grown corn. China purchased around $1 billion worth of American sorghum per year until April 2018, when China imposed retaliatory duties on American sorghum as part of the trade war between the two countries.[22]


  1. "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew". Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  2. "Sorghum". County-level distribution maps from the North American Plant Atlas (NAPA). Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  3. "The Plant List: Sorghum". Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Missouri Botanic Garden. 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  4. Sally L. Dillon; Peter K. Lawrence; Robert J. Henry; et al. "Sorghum laxiflorum and S. macrospermum, the Australian native species most closely related to the cultivated S. bicolor based on ITS1 and ndhF sequence analysis of 28 Sorghum species". Southern Cross Plant Science. Southern Cross University. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  5. Australia, Atlas of Living. "Sorghum - Atlas of Living Australia". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  6. "Tropicos, Sorghum Moench". Retrieved 2018-05-31.
  7. "Flora of China Vol. 22 Page 600 高粱属 gao liang shu Sorghum Moench, Methodus. 207. 1794". Retrieved 2018-05-31.
  8. "Sorghum Explorer". Retrieved 2023-01-04.
  9. "Cyanide (prussic acid) and nitrate in sorghum crops Primary industries and fisheries". Queensland Government. 7 November 2018. Retrieved 2021-05-13.
  10. "Sorghum". Agriculture Victoria. The State of Victoria. Archived from the original on 2019-10-02. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  11. The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants. United States Department of the Army. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. 2009. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-60239-692-0. OCLC 277203364.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  12. Mutegi, Evans; Sagnard, Fabrice; Muraya, Moses; et al. (2010-02-01). "Ecogeographical distribution of wild, weedy and cultivated Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench in Kenya: implications for conservation and crop-to-wild gene flow" (PDF). Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 57 (2): 243–253. doi:10.1007/s10722-009-9466-7. S2CID 28318220.
  13. Stefan Hauser, Lydia Wairegi, Charles L. A. Asadu, Damian O. Asawalam, Grace Jokthan, Utiang Ugbe (2015). "Sorghum- and millet-legume cropping systems" (PDF). CABI and Africa Soil Health Consortium. Retrieved 7 October 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  14. Carney, Judith (2009). In the Shadow of Slavery. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. p. 16. ISBN 9780520269965.
  15. Dykes, Linda; Rooney, Lloyd W. (2006). "Sorghum and millet phenols and antioxidants" (PDF). Journal of Cereal Science. 44 (3): 236–251. doi:10.1016/j.jcs.2006.06.007.
  16. Luca, Simon Vlad; Macovei, Irina; Bujor, Alexandra; Miron, Anca; Skalicka-Woźniak, Krystyna; Aprotosoaie, Ana Clara; Trifan, Adriana (2020). "Bioactivity of dietary polyphenols: The role of metabolites". Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 60 (4): 626–659. doi:10.1080/10408398.2018.1546669. PMID 30614249. S2CID 58651581.
  17. "Popped Sorghum". Recipes. Bob's Red Mill. 2021. Retrieved 2021-02-17.
  18. Longmeimei cooking channel: 第一次做高粱馒头和面条,费了很大功夫Sorghum Bread and Sorghum Noodles, archived from the original on 2021-12-11, retrieved 2021-06-26
  19. Mulhollem, Jeff (10 August 2020). "Flavonoids' presence in sorghum roots may lead to frost-resistant crop". Pennsylvania State University. … sorghum is a crop that can respond to climate change because of its high water- and nitrogen-use efficiency …
  20. Tove Danovich (15 December 2015). "Move over, quinoa: sorghum is the new 'wonder grain'". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  21. Willy H. Verheye, ed. (2010). "Growth and Production of Sorghum and Millets". Soils, Plant Growth and Crop Production. Vol. II. EOLSS Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84826-368-0.
  22. "Sorghum, targeted by tariffs, is a U.S. crop China started buying only five years ago". LA Times. Apr 18, 2018. Retrieved 28 January 2019.

Further reading

  • Watson, Andrew M. (1983). Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World: The Diffusion of Crops and Farming Techniques, 700–1100. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-24711-X.
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