Sorghum is a purplish red grain that grows at the top of a corn-like plant. It requires relatively little water and grows in harsh environments where other crops do not grow easily. Sorghum is the third most important cereal crop grown in Uganda after maize and finger millet. It is widely grown in the drier short grass areas of Northern and Eastern parts of the country and is particularly grows well in drought prone Karamoja where it occupies over 80 per cent of the total crop hectarage. Sorghum is also grown throughout the country in semi-arid parts of the country such as Soroti, Kabala, Mbarara and Kigezi.
Sorghum is also grown on small scale in other parts of Uganda.
Yields of up to 800 kg/ha can be obtained from well managed local varieties as compared to 5000 kg/ha for improved varieties. Hybrids yield 25 per cent higher than improved varieties.
Apart from local demand, sorghum has a great potential demand in South Sudan, Somalia and Kenya
Uses of Sorghum
The sorghum has the following uses:
• Sorghum stem plant can be used as animal feed.
• Sorghum is used for human consumption for example its used in making Unleavened bread, can be boiled into porridge or sorghum meal
• Raw materials for brewing beer
• Used as animal feed
• To make local brooms
• The stems can be used in protecting or improving soil fertility if well disposed of.
It is important to note if sorghum plant after maturing is well cut, can still grow on its own for the second, and even third cutting.
Varieties of sorghum
Local sorghum types are predominantly grown in Uganda. There are however a number of improved varieties such as Seredo, Serena, Dobhs Bora, Lulu D and Lulu Tall which have been developed. However only Serena and Seredo are available to fanners through the Uganda Seed Project which is charged with the mandate of multiplying, processing, packaging and distribution of seed of improved varieties.
Karamoja Seed Scheme also carries out multiplication, processing and distribution of seed. Sorghum hybrids like Hijack, Himidi and Hbred which have been developed in Serere are not yet available as the Uganda Seed Project is not ready to produce hybrid sorghum seed at the moment.
Preparation for growing sorghum
Sorghum requires a properly prepared seed bed and planting should be done at the onset of the rains.
Very tall local Sorghum varieties require wide spacing 90 cm between rows and 30 cm between plants. Improved short sorghum varieties require narrow spacing 60 cm, between rows and 20 cm between plants. Row planting is just strongly recommended as compared to broadcasting. Plant 4-5 seeds per hole and thin to one plant per hole when the plants are about 6 inches or 15 cm high. Seed and seedling diseases and soil insect pests can be troublesome when germination occurs under cool soil conditions. It is therefore advisable to dress the seed with Thiram or Furadan.
Sorghum should be kept free from weeds especially in the early stages of growth. 2-3 weeding are sufficient for the crop. The crop at maturity is harvested using simple hand tools such as knives. The grain should be quite dry before harvesting.