By Carol Namono
Sorghum [Sorghum bicolour (L.) Moench] is a versatile and hardy cereal grain. It is the fifth most important cereal after rice, wheat, maize, and barley. Sorghum is an important income and food security crop for those living in drought-prone regions of Uganda. Many races of the cereal are grown in almost all zones but the northern region is the highest producer followed by eastern, western and lastly the central.
Uses of sorghum
In Uganda, it is highly used for selling grain, used as food, making alcohol lager beer by East African Breweries and Nile Breweries and used as forage among others.
There are a number of key factors to consider when growing sorghum. steps involved range from selecting the right variety to harvesting and processing the grain.
Variety Selection for sorghum seeds
The first step in growing sorghum is to select the right variety. There are many different types of sorghum and they include red sorghum, white sorghum, surugunyu, sumac, kamani 32Y, Gadam, among others. Each variety has its own unique characteristics and traits. Some of the key factors to consider when selecting a sorghum variety include its maturity time, yield potential, nutrients contained and resistance to various pests and diseases.
Site Selection and Land Preparation
Select a site with fewer trees to minimize bird damage
The land for sorghum production should also be prepared (at least one month before planting) for better emergence and seedling germination and it should be harrowed to a fine tilth in case of a tractor.
Sorghum can grow in a wide range of soil types, but it does best in well-drained fertile soils that are rich in organic matter at soil pH values between 6 and 7.5. However, in Uganda sorghum is mainly grown on low potential, shallow soils with high clay-loam or sandy-loam texture. Before planting, it is important to till the soil to a depth of at least six inches to ensure that it is loose and aerated.
Planting time and method (seed rate)
In Uganda most of the sorghum is planted in the second season from August to September
while some farmers plant in the first season from March to April. However, variation in planting time exists depending on the region and types of varieties
During planting, broadcasting is mainly practiced by farmers in Uganda. However, this method leads to wastage of seed and use of more labor for subsequent activities such as spraying, weeding and harvesting. The recommended seed rate is 10 Kgha-1 (4 kg ac-1) where 3-5 seeds are planted per hole under row planting.
Sorghum is drought-tolerant and can do well in areas with little rainfall, however, it still requires adequate water to grow properly. In general, sorghum in Uganda grows under varying rains of 82-130mm per month. should receive about 1 inch of water per week during the growing season. If rainfall is inadequate, irrigation may be necessary to ensure proper growth and development.
Weeding and thinning
Sorghum is normally weeded once in many parts of Uganda but it is recommended to
weed at least twice. The first weeding should be done 2-3 weeks after germination while the second weeding should be done 6 weeks after germination depending on weed intensity. This is because weeds compete vigorously with the crop for nutrients and water.
However, during weeding, thinning and gap filling is necessary when there is adequate moisture in the soil.
Weed control can be done through a combination of physical, chemical and biological methods. Physical methods include hoeing or hand weeding, chemical that includes use of liquids, gasses and granules then biological that includes use of aphids that destroy larva of stem borers among others.
Sorghum requires a significant amount of nitrogen to grow properly, so it is important to fertilize the soil for early vegetative growth and rapid development. In addition to nitrogen, sorghum also requires phosphorus and potassium, which can be added to the soil in the form of a balanced fertilizer.
Due to differences in varieties, sorghum matures between 90-140 days and is ready for
harvesting when the crop has reached physiological maturity.
First season sorghum is harvested between July to August while second season sorghum
is harvested from December to January.
Compiled By Carol Namono(P.R.O) and Daglaus Mugwimbi(Research Department)