Sorghum is a hot season crop grown as a feed source in the more arid plains states that do not receive enough moisture to grow corn. Sorghum is native to Africa and commonly grown there and in Asia as well as in the United States. The feed value of the crop is often nearly equal to corn although the sorghum grain needs to be rolled prior to feeding to improve digestion. Livestock is often allowed to graze on the sorghum fields after fall harvest, enhancing the value to the farmer.
Sorghum is planted once soil temperature at planting depth is consistent at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This varies with climate and local conditions but can occur as early as March in warmer climates or May or June in cooler climates. Planting early results in slow seedling development and could increase the plant's susceptibility to disease.
Days to Maturity
Most hybrids take about three to four months from planting to maturity. Northern growers may consider the shorter-maturing varieties. This is a longer maturity period than most hybrid corn or cereal grain crops.
The long growing season makes late planting of sorghum risky in cooler climates. Farmers would need to judge if the sorghum has time to mature before the first fall frosts. Late planting also puts the crop at risk for hotter weather and drier conditions and commonly produces a smaller yield than spring-planted crops.
Sorghum is commonly harvested in the fall. Harvest commonly begins when the moisture content of the sorghum grain is below 20 percent if the crop can be artificially dried or 14 percent if drying equipment is not available. Sorghum grain must be below 14 percent moisture for safe storage. However, if the sorghum grain is allowed to dry out to 14 percent in the field, some of the seeds will be lost before harvest.
Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.