Sorghum undoubtedly is one of the major staple cereals in the world. It is a tropical crop mainly cultivated for its grains and stem which are consumed for food and fodder by man and livestock respectively.
In view of the Cassava/Sorghum Flour Inclusion Bill in Nigeria, which allows High Quality Sorghum Flour to be added to the flour produced by flour mills in the country, the demand for sorghum has increased exponentially thereby creating a strain on the sorghum value chain in the country who is the largest producer of the crop in the continent and one of the highest in the world.
With this incentive, farmers are generally invited to exploit this rare opportunity provided by the government by getting more involved in sorghum cultivation to satisfy the demands of our mills. With this stated, it is pertinent to point out that sorghum cultivation is easy compared to the cultivation of other cereal crops because it is a very tough plant which has a very great survival tendency.
Sorghum is a cereal plant similar to maize. It comprises of a shoot that grows to a height of about 1 metre and an extensive root system. Its leaves and stem are covered with a waxy coating to reduce water loss through transpiration. Cultivation of this crop is similar to most cereals. Because of some specific adaptations, it is drought and heat tolerant. It can survive a wide range of climates; from the rainy guinea savannah to the dry Sahel savannah. For sorghum to produce optimally, the following is required;
- Fertile soil with all the basic nutrients necessary for normal plant development. Sorghum grows on almost all types of soil but loamy soil is recommended because of its water retention capacity.
- The soil should be slightly alkaline in pH.
- Water logged soil should be avoided. Excessively dry soil is also not compatible with the crop too.
- An average atmospheric temperature of about 28°C, rainfall 2000mm to 1200mm annually.
- Excessive wind should be avoided because they tend to bend and destroy the plant.
- A moderate relative humidity is vital.
Proper land preparation is pivotal to achieve maximum production of any crop. Sorghum, although seen as a tough crop is no exception to this principle. The following pre planting activities are carried out on the proposed land for sorghum planting; first, clearing the land of weeds, crop residues, stomps and other materials that are not required for cultivation. This process is followed by ploughing which is carried out twice and then the land is harrowed. The prepared land is then marked with a spacing of about 25cm between the rows
Sorghum is cultivated through its seeds which can be got from agro dealers. Planting of the seed is done manually in subsistence agriculture or using corn seeder in commercial farming. Planting is carried out by placing the seed in a hole 4cm deep. The planting rate of sorghum is about 7kg of seeds per hectare.
Sorghum can grow in very extreme environments where most plants will not survive and can grow without fertilizers but should fertilizers be required, nitrogen fertilizers should be applied because nitrogen is the most vital nutrient used up by the crop
Weed attack usually have little adverse effect on sorghum because it is adapted to effectively compete with them. Albeit, to attain maximum yield, it is advisable to still carry out weeding to reduce unnecessary competition with the plant. Weeding can be carried out manually or using chemicals.
PEST AND DISEASE
Sorghum is rarely susceptible to disease but is prone to major pests like bird (which is the major pest of the crop and causes significant loss if not effectively controlled), aphids and some insect pests. These pests can be combated using chemical, traps, scarecrows and other methods of pest control employed by farmers in different locations in the country.
Sorghum is harvested using sickles in subsistence farming then it is processed. Commercial farmer employ combined harvesters to harvest and process this crop. Harvested sorghum is usually stored in jute bags, silos or in different storage devices employed by various farmers in different places in Nigeria. The expected yield from a sorghum farm is about 6 tons of grains per hectare.
USES OF SORGHUM
- It is consumed by man as food.
- The post harvest residue of the crop can be used to feed livestock
- Industries like flour mills, breweries use it as raw materials for producing flour and beer respectively.