Why Sorghum
The ABS Project
The importance of Sorghum

Sorghum is a genus of grasses raised for grain and fodder.  The plants are cultivated in warmer climates around the world and species are native to tropical and subtropical regions of all continents.  Sorghum is the world’s fifth most important cereal crop after maize, rice, wheat and barley.  It is the dietary staple of more than 500 million people in more than 30 countries.

Origins and History

Sorghum originated in Africa, with the primary source of origin believed to be around the Ethiopian Highlands and Southern Sudan.  It was cultivated in Egypt in antiquity.  It appears that sorghum moved into eastern Africa from Ethiopia around 200 AD or earlier. It was carried to the countries of eastern and southern Africa by the Bantu people, in whose migration it played a critical role.             
Sorghum was taken from Africa to all continents.  Sorghum spread to India probably during the first millennium BC. The spread along the coast of Southeast Asia to China may have taken place about the beginning of the Christian era.  Grain sorghum got to America as "guinea corn" from West Africa together with slave traders in the middle of the 19th century.  Its importance there and in Australia was only recognised in the 20th century.

Classification and characterisation

The genus Sorghum is characterized by spikelets borne in pairs. Sorghum is a perennial grass treated as an annual, and can be harvested many times if planted in the tropics. Sorghum is known under a variety of names: great millet and guinea corn in West Africa, kaffir corn in Southern Africa, durra in Sudan, mtama in eastern Africa. Scientifically, sorghum belongs to the order of Poales and the Poaceae family. Sorghum bicolor is the primary cultivated sorghum grass.

The Sorghum Kernel: Structure and Chemistry

The sorghum kernel varies in colour from white through shades of red and brown to pale yellow to deep purple-brown. Kernels are generally spherical but vary in size and shape. The percentages of the seed components are endosperm (82%), embryo (12%) and seed coat (5-6%).    The plant is very high in fibre and iron, with a fairly high protein level as well.  Brown-seeded types are high in testa tannins.  Many sorghums are pigmented by polyphenolic compounds which have anti-oxidant properties.

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