After completing this lesson, you have learned to answer:
  1. What is the major food value for which sorghum is cultivated?
  2. What are the various uses for which sorghum is grown?
  3. Why sorghum crop is popular as a fodder crop?
  4. Describe the nutritional features of grain sorghum?
  5. What is the importance of tannins in sorghum grain?
  6. Why sorghum is better food than wheat for some persons?
  7. Why tannin sorghums are not good as livestock feed?
  8. What is HCN poisoning?
  9. How do you reduce HCN levels in sorghum forage?
  10. How will you manage to avoid HCN poisoning in cattle?

Overall in Asia sorghum is primarily used for food comprising 66% of total utilization.
The rest is utilized for feed and industrial uses.In India, sorghum is mostly used both for food and feed.
Recently sorghum is also used in alcohol industry with the introduction of sweet sorghums.
In China, sorghum is used for food, feed, and in the brewing industry to make beer.

                                  Utilization of sorghum grain and stalk in Asia
          Country            Grain  Stalk 
 Rainy Season Sorghum  
         India  Food, feed, alcohol

Dry fodder (live stock),

Forage (Livestock),

alcohol (industrial)
         Pakistan  Feed (less emphasis)

Dry fodder (live stock),

Forage (live stock-dairy) 

         Thailand  Feed (live stock)Dry fodder (live stock) 
 Post-rainy Season Sorghum  
         India  FoodDry fodder (live stock)
 Summer Sorghum  
         India (limited)  FoodDry fodder (live stock)
 Cool Temperature Sorghum  
         China  Feed (livestock), alcohol Alcohol (sweet sorghum)
 Rice fallow Sorghum  
         Philippines  Feed (livestock) 

Sorghum grain is used for human consumption and as feed for animals.The plant stem and foliage are used for green chop, hay, silage, and pasture.In some areas the stem is used for hut making.The plant remains, after the sorghum heads are harvested, are used as fuel for cooking.

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         Roti (flat bread) making                                        Sorghum porridge

Sorghum is traditionally used for food products like roti (flat bread), bhakri (stiff roti), and porridge or gruel.

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         Making of cookies                  Sorghum cookies                               Plum Cake

Sorghum flour mixed with wheat flour is used for making baking products like breads, cakes, muffins, cookies, and biscuits.

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              Pop sorghum

There are sorghum types such as pop sorghum and sweet sorghum that are slightly roasted and eaten.

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              Transporting fodder sorghum

Sorghum is also used as fodder for livestock because of its:

  • wide adaptation;
  • rapid growth;
  • high green and dry fodder;
  • ratoonability;
  • drought tolerance.

The crop residue (stover) after grain harvest is valuable source of fodder.

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   Sorghum grain as poultry feed

Sorghum grain is used as animal feed in the Americas, China and Australia. In India, when rainy season sorghum heads are affected by moulds, the grain is used as animal/poultry feed.

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           Forage Sorghum

Sorghum is cultivated for forage mostly in north India and West Africa.

Sorghum varieties and hybrids are available exclusively for forage purpose.
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   Chopping of forage sorghum
     for animal feeding

Forage sorghums are fed to animals as a green chop or hay (quickly dried sorghum for fodder).
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                Beer made from sorghum grain

Malted sorghum is used for brewing beer in Ghana and Nigeria.Sorghum’s comparative advantage would be its low output price, especially in production regions of rainy season sorghum in India over that of existing raw material.
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                  Sweet sorghum


Bio-fuel is produced from sweet sorghum types.

The stalks of sweet sorghums are used for ethanol production.

Ethanol is blended with petrol to reduce the fuel costs.
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       Sorghum Syrup

Sweet sorghum is concentrated and sterilized to make natural syrup.

The syrup is used in confectionery industry as a sweetener.

The syrup also can be used instead of honey with breakfast foods.
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                      Sorghum Syrup

The juice extracted from sweet sorghum is cleansed of impurities and concentrated by evaporation in open pans into a clear, amber colored, mild flavored syrup.

The syrup retains all of its natural sugars and other nutrients. It is 100 percent natural and contains no chemical additives of any kind.
Alternate TextSweet sorghum juice can be concentrated to make jaggery using the same method of making jaggery from sugarcane.


The yield is 3 to 3.5 t/ha and is economical compared to sugarcane jaggery.

Sorghum is a principal source of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for millions of the poorest people in the regions where it is cultivated.

The protein content is nearly equal and is comparable to that of wheat and maize.

Nutritionally, grain sorghum is comprised of 11.3% protein and 3.3% fat.

Like other cereals, sorghum is predominantly starchy. The average starch content of sorghum ranges from 56 to 73 %. The chemical nature of the starch, is a factor that affects its digestibility.


Sorghum grain is relatively rich in iron and phosphorus.

Sorghum and millets in general are rich sources of B-complex vitamins but do not contain vitamin A and C.

        Nutritional Information


 Sorghum  Corn
 Total Calories 339  365
 Calories from Fat  29.7 42.66
 Total Fat (g) 3.3  4.74
 saturated Fat (g)  0.457 0.667
 Protein (g) 11.3  9.42

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            Red grained sorghum

Tannins most commonly found in red wine and tea, are found in sorghum grains particularly in red grained types.

These tannins contain compounds called antioxidants. Antioxidants protect against cell damage, a major cause for diseases and aging.

Sorghums with high levels of antioxidants are important sources for use in healthy foods.

Non-tannin sorghums may be healthier as well.

The protein and starch in grain sorghum are more slowly digested than other cereals, and slower rates of digestibility are particularly beneficial for diabetics.

Sorghum starch is gluten-free. This makes sorghum a good substitute for wheat flour to individuals who are unable to digest food made from wheat.

Sorghum Feed Value

Sorghum has a very hard kernel. This makes it resistant to diseases and insect damage but requires processing to enhance its feeding efficiency.

Sorghum is ground, cracked, steam flaked, or roasted. These processing techniques will enhance the nutritional value of sorghum by 12-14%.

Sorghum grain is a very good feed provided the tannin content in the grain is taken care.

Sorghum varieties and hybrids differ in palatability and nutritional value.

However, with poor quality protein, the value of sorghum grain was only about 70% that of maize. The efficiency of utilization of sorghum for poultry is similar to maize or 10 to 15% lower, apparently depending on tannin content.

Livestock feed manufacturers prefer white sorghums or low tannin pigmented sorghums.

The tannin sorghums (red grained) when fed to livestock:
  • Feed efficiency is significantly reduced depending on the type of livestock, processing and the ration fed;
  • Less palatable (bitter) to animals if they have a choice;
  • Animals consume more feed to produce the same weight gains.

Sorghum Forage

Young sorghum plants contain poisonous chemical.

When cattle, sheep and goats graze such green and growing sorghum crop may result in hydrocyanic acid (HCN) poisoning.

Danger of HCN poisoning is greatest at immature stages of sorghum growth and decreases with maturity.

HCN levels are most potent in:
  • young plants under 6 weeks old;
  • young regrowth;
  • plants stressed due to drought;
  • high soil nitorgen level;
  • imbalance between soil nitrogen and phosphorus.

Generally, cutting the plants and chopping, and sun-curing can reduce HCN levels, because the HCN can evaporate with the loss in forage moisture.

Management to reduce HCN poisoning:
  • do not turn hungry livestock out on lush regrowth of sorghum. Feed some dry fodder first, then turn out in the afternoon;
  • do not graze until the regrowth is 18 to 24 inches tall;
  • drying or ensiling or allowing the forage to mature will reduce its HCN content.

With this, the Lesson 2 on Uses and Nutritional Value of Sorghum in this Module concludes.

Next, Lesson 3 in this Module is about growth of sorghum plant.

                                    Select Lesson 3 from Module I contents