how to grow sorghum

How to grow sorghum and know the different varietys

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Sorghum can be planted as a pure stand or intercropped with maize, beans, and cowpeas.

Variety of sorghum

Your choice will depend on what you plan to do with it. Different varieties have different tastes. White sorghum varieties are preferred for beer brewing and the two most popular are Sila and Gaddam.They have bigger grains, higher starch, and sugar content that is good for fermentation. They are also low in tannin (an element in sorghum that reddens the seed). Sorghum varieties with high tannin elements are smaller and have low starch content. They are not ideal for beer brewing.

Soil preparation

Prepare the soil to a fine tilth. Dry planting is preferred because planting on wet soils is difficult and the sorghum seed is small. The breaks caused as the planters work will interfere with the rate of germination.

Dry planting also reduces the chances of seeds rotting.


45-60cm x 12-20cm is suitable. In drier conditions, a wider spacing is adopted.

Planting: Directly sow at a depth of no more than 4 inches. Place two seeds in every hole to guarantee the required population is achieved. (It is easier to thin the crops if both germinate than to fill the gaps).


Apply DAP fertiliser to encourage rooting. Cover lightly with soil. When the sorghum is knee-high apply CAN fertiliser to encourage leaf growth.

Germination: Occurs within five to seven days after sowing.


Thin the plants after one week of germination, keeping the stronger shoot. Remove excess tillers (shoots) when the plant is knee-high and leave a maximum of three, which the parent stem can support comfortably. Strong shoots are important as sorghum is self-regulating and will produce smaller heads, if its stems are weak.

Weeding of sorghum

Weed after one month. Watch for the purple witch weed (Striga hermonthica), a parasitic weed Striga, which attaches itself to sorghum roots, thereby depriving it of nutrients and prevents it from proper growth and establishment.

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