About 30 species, see text
Sorghum is a genus of numerous species of grasses, one of which is raised for grain and many of which are used as fodder plants either cultivated or as part of pasture. The plants are cultivated in warmer climates worldwide. Species are native to tropical and subtropical regions of all continents in addition to the South West Pacific and Australasia. Sorghum is in the subfamily Panicoideae and the tribe Andropogoneae (the tribe of big bluestem and sugar cane).
For more specific details on commercially exploited sorghum, see commercial sorghum.
Cultivation and uses
One species, Sorghum bicolor, is an important world crop, used for food (as grain and in sorghum syrup or "sorghum molasses"), fodder, the production of alcoholic beverages, as well as biofuels. Most varieties are drought and heat tolerant, and are especially important in arid regions, where the grain is staple or one of the staples for poor and rural people. They form an important component of pastures in many tropical regions. Sorghum is an important food crop in Africa, Central America, and South Asia and is the "fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world".
The reclaimed stalks of the sorghum plant are used to make a decorative millwork material marketed as Kirei board.
Sweet sorghum syrup is known as molasses in some parts of the U.S., although it is not true molasses.
Some species of sorghum can contain levels of hydrogen cyanide, hordenine and nitrates lethal to grazing animals in the early stages of the plant's growth. Stressed plants, even at later stages of growth, can also contain toxic levels of cyanide.
In China, sorghum is fermented and distilled to produce maotai, which is regarded as one of the country's most famous liquors. Sorghum was ground and the flour was the main alternative to wheat in north China for a long time.
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