What is sorghum?

Sorghum is truly a versatile crop that can be grown as a grain, forage or sweet crop. Sorghum is one of the top five cereal crops in the world. The United States is the world’s largest producer of grain sorghum, having produced 597 million bushels in 2015.

Sorghum is among the most efficient crops in conversion of solar energy and use of water and is known as a high-energy, drought tolerant crop that is environmentally friendly. Due to sorghum’s wide uses and adaptation, “sorghum is one of the really indispensable crops” required for the survival of humankind (From Jack Harlan, 1971).

10 reasons to eat Sorghum grain

  1. Sorghum grain tastes good!
  2. Sorghum grain is always whole grain whether popped as a snack, milled into flour or cooked whole as a cereal or pilaf”
  3. Sorghum grain is high in potassium (350 mg/100 g) and low in sodium (600 mg/100 g) therefore promoting healthy blood pressure (1).
  4. Sorghum grain is gluten-free enabling those with seliac disease to consume a healthy whole grain product.
  5. Sorghum grain is rich in health promoting phytochemicals: phenolic acids, sterols, policosanols, and anthocyanins (2).
  6. Sorghum grain and sorghum flour are rich in minerals: magnesium, copper, manganese, iron and zinc (1).
  7. Sorghum grain and sorghum flour are rich in vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin,
    niacin, vitamin 8-6 and pantothenate (1).
  8. Sorghum grain is rich in macronutrients: containing 11% protein, 75% carbohydrate and 3% total fat (1).
  9. Sorghum grain grown in the U.S. is free of condensed tannins that may interfere with mineral absorption (2).
  10. Sorghum grain (1) and sorghum flour (3) are excellent sources of fiber with 6.3 g and 6.6 g per 100 g respectively.

EC Henley, PhD, BD, LD
January 2012

  1. USDA Nationai Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24 {2011i. Items 620067 and 20648.
  2. Awika JM, Rooney, LW. Sorghum phytochemicals and their potential impact on human health.
    Phytochemistry 2004;65:1199122.
  3. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24 (2011)). Item# 20648.

Where is grain Sorghum grown in the U.S.?

Sorghum is traditionally grown throughout the Sorghum Belt, which runs from South Dakota to Southern Texas, primarily on dryland acres. Acreage increases are seen in non-traditional areas like the Delta and Southeast regions. In 2015, sorghum was planted on 8.5 million acres and 597 million bushels were harvested, the largest grain crop since 1997. The top five sorghum-producing states in 2015 were:

Kansas – 3.4 million acres
Texas – 2.6 million acres
Arkansas – 450,000 acres
Oklahoma – 440,000 acres
Colorado – 440,000 acres

A brief history of Sorghum

The origin and early domestication of sorghum took place in Northeastern Africa. The earliest known record of sorghum comes from an archeological dig at Nabta Playa, near the Egyptian-Sudanese border, dated 8,000 B.C. Sorghum spread throughout Africa, and along the way, adapted to a wide range of environments from the highlands of Ethiopia to the semi-arid Sahel.

The development and spread of five different races of sorghum can, in many cases, be attributed to the movement of various tribal groups in Africa. Sorghum then spread to India and China and eventually worked its way into Australia. The first known record of sorghum in the United States comes from Ben Franklin in 1757 who wrote about its application in producing brooms.