Sorghum

views updated

Sorghum

Sorghum (genus Sorghum ) refers to various species of grasses (family Poaceae) that are cultivated as food crops. Because the relationships among the various species and their hybrids are highly complex and not well understood, the cultivated grain sorghums are usually named as Sorghum bicolor.

Sorghum is a tropical grass, well adapted to high productivity in a hot and dry climatic regime, and water efficient (water transpired per unit of atmospheric carbon dioxide fixed during photosynthesis). The wild progenitors of domesticated sorghum are thought to have inhabited the savanna of northern and central Africa, and perhaps India. Wild sorghum still occurs in these regions and their grains are gathered for food by local people. Sorghum was domesticated as a grain-crop approximately 5,000 years ago. Modern varieties grow 3-15 ft tall (1-5 m). The grains are born in a dense cluster (known as a panicle) at the top of the plant.

Sorghum is one of the worlds major cultivated crops, ranking fourth among the cereals. In 1999, about 113 million acres (45.9 million ha) of sorghum were grown worldwide, and total production was 74.9 million tons of grain (68.1 million tonnes). Most of the worlds sorghum crop is grown in Africa, where it is a leading cereal (although surpassed during the twentieth century by maize [Zea mays ] in many countries).

There are four main cultivated groups of sorghum:

  • The grain sorghums are ground into flour for baking bread and cakes, boiled as a gruel, fermented into beer, or fed to livestock. Sorghum grain is highly nutritious, containing about 12% protein. Grain sorghums are by far the most important sorghum crop.
  • The sweet sorghum contains a high concentration of sucrose in its stems and is used to make table sugar in the same way as sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum). However, the sorghum sugar is not usually crystallized, but is boiled down into a dark-brown syrup similar to molasses.
  • The forage sorghums are used directly as animal feed or they are chopped and fermented to manufacture silage.
  • The broom-corn sorghums are cultivated for their thin, wiry, brushy stalks that are bound into corn brooms. This is no longer a common use, as natural-fiber brooms have been replaced by synthetic ones.

Bill Freedman

Sorghum

views updated

Sorghum

Sorghum (genus Sorghum) refers to various species of grasses (family Poaceae) that are cultivated as food crops . Because the relationships among the various species and their hybrids are highly complex and not well understood, the cultivated grain sorghums are usually named as Sorghum bicolor.

Sorghum is a tropical grass, well adapted to high productivity in a hot and dry climatic regime, and water efficient (water transpired per unit of atmospheric carbon dioxide fixed during photosynthesis ). The wild progenitors of domesticated sorghum are thought to have inhabited the savannah of northern and central Africa , and perhaps India. Wild sorghum still occurs in these regions and their grains are gathered for food by local people. Sorghum was domesticated as a grain-crop approximately 5,000 years ago. Modern varieties grow 3-15 ft tall (1-5 m). The grains are born in a dense cluster (known as a panicle) at the top of the plant .

Sorghum is one of the world's major cultivated crops, ranking fourth among the cereals. In 1999, about 113 million acres (45.9 million ha) of sorghum were grown worldwide, and total production was 74.9 million tons of grain (68.1 million tonnes). Most of the world's sorghum crop is grown in Africa, where it is a leading cereal (although surpassed during the twentieth century by maize (Zea mays) in many countries).

There are four main cultivated groups of sorghum:

  • The grain sorghums are ground into flour for baking bread and cakes, boiled as a gruel, fermented into beer, or fed to livestock . Sorghum grain is highly nutritious, containing about 12% protein. Grain sorghums are by far the most important sorghum crop.
  • The sweet sorghum contains a high concentration of sucrose in its stems and is used to make table sugar in the same way as sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum). However, the sorghum sugar is not usually crystallized, but is boiled down into a dark-brown syrup similar to molasses.
  • The forage sorghums are used directly as animal feed or they are chopped and fermented to manufacture silage.
  • The broom-corn sorghums are cultivated for their thin, wiry, brushy stalks that are bound into "corn" brooms. This is no longer a common use, as natural-fiber brooms have been replaced by synthetic ones.

Bill Freedman

Sorghum

views updated

SORGHUM

SORGHUM , the summer plant Sorghum cernicum, called in Arabic durra or doḥ'n. The Arabs of Israel sow it extensively, both for fodder and for flour, from which they make pittah ("flat bread"). It is thought to have been introduced into Ereẓ Israel only during the time of the Second Temple. According to Pliny (Natural History 18:55), a plant resembling Millium ("*millet"), which has large kernels, was brought to Rome from India during his time, and the reference seems to be to sorghum. It is possible that the plant reached Babylon at an earlier date, for it would appear to be identical with the doḥan from which Ezekiel made the mixed bread he ate for a period of 390 days (Ezek. 4:9). Some think that Panicum ("millet") is meant here, but millet is the peragim of the Mishnah. In rabbinic literature doḥan is mentioned with *rice and peragim as a summer crop (Shev. 2:7, et al.) from which bread was sometimes made, but since these are not included in the *five species of grain they are not treated as bread with respect to the laws of *ḥallah, blessings, and leaven on Passover (Ḥal. 1:4; Ber. 37a). Bread made of sorghum was regarded as less tasty than that made from rice (Er. 81a). Today the red-seeded sorghum brought from California is cultivated by Jews in Israel. Some species of sorghum grow wild there.

bibliography:

Loew, Flora, 1 (1926), 738–46; H.N. and A.L. Moldenke, Plants of the Bible (1952), index; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 154–5.

[Jehuda Feliks]

Sorghum

views updated

SORGHUM

SORGHUM. In the 1840s the United States imported sorghum seeds from Liberia and grew the plants with a view to manufacturing sugar commercially from their juice. All such attempts proved futile, however, since glucose is the only saccharine matter in the plant. Colonel Isaac Hedges of Missouri was the greatest promoter of the product. During the Civil War, when Southern molasses was unavailable in the North, sorghum became a popular product in the Upper Mississippi Valley. Farmers used large wooden knives to strip sorghum stalks of their leaves as the plants stood in the field. They then cut the stalks and hauled them to a local mill where they were run between rollers to extract the juice, which was boiled to the proper consistency in large vats. Great quantities of this "long sweetening" were made and used as a substitute for sugar on the prairie frontier.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ledbetter, William M. "Isaac Hedges' Vision of a Sorghum-Sugar Industry in Missouri," Missouri Historical Review 21, no. 3 (1926): 361–369.

EverettDick/c. w.

See alsoMaple Sugar ; Molasses Trade ; Sugar Industry .

sorghum

views updated

sorghum Sorghum vulgare, S. bicolor; cereals that thrive in semi‐arid regions and provide important human food in tropical Africa, central and north India, and China. Sorghum produced in the USA and Australia is used for animal feed. Also known as kaffir corn (in South Africa), guinea corn (in west Africa), jowar (in India), Indian millet, and millo maize. The white‐grain variety is eaten as meal; the red‐grained has a bitter taste and is used for beer; sugar syrup is obtained from the crushed stems of the sweet sorghum. A 200‐g portion is a rich source of protein, vitamin B1, niacin, and iron; a good source of zinc; a source of vitamin B2; provides 14 g of dietary fibre; supplies 660 kcal (2800 kJ). See also millet.

sorghum

views updated

sor·ghum / ˈsôrgəm/ • n. a widely cultivated cereal (genus Sorghum) native to warm regions of the Old World. It is a major source of grain and of feed for livestock. ∎  a syrupy sweetener made from a type of this cereal.

sorghum

views updated

sorghum Tropical cereal grass native to Africa and cultivated worldwide. Types raised for grain are varieties of Sorghum vulgare that have leaves coated with white waxy blooms and flower heads that bear up to 3000 seeds. It yields meal, oil, starch, and dextrose (a sugar). Height: 0.5–2.5m (2–8ft). Family Poaceae/Gramineae.

sorghum

views updated

sorghum Indian millet XVI; Chinese sugar cane; genus of grasses XIX. modL. — It. sorgo, perh. :- Rom. *syricum (cf. medL. sur(i)cum) Syrian
.