S. bicolor
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Panicoideae
Supertribe: Andropogonodae
Tribe: Andropogoneae
Subtribe: Saccharinae
Genus: Sorghum
Moench 1794, conserved name not Sorgum Adanson 1763
Type species
S. bicolor
  • Blumenbachia Koeler 1802, rejected name not Schrad. 1825 (Loasaceae)
  • Sarga Ewart
  • Vacoparis Spangler
  • Andropogon subg. Sorghum Hackel.

Sorghum (/ˈsɔːrɡəm/) or broomcorn is a genus of about 25 species of flowering plants in the grass family (Poaceae). Some of these species are grown as cereals for human consumption, in pastures for animals, and as bristles for brooms.[2] One species is grown for grain, while many others are used as fodder plants, either cultivated in warm climates worldwide or naturalized in pasture lands.[3]


Sorghum was domesticated from its wild ancestor more than 5,000 years ago in what is today Sudan. The newest evidence comes from an archaeological site near Kassala in eastern Sudan, dating from 3500 to 3000 BC, and is associated with the neolithic Butana Group culture.[4] It was the staple food of the kingdom of Alodia.[5]


Sorghum is in the grass family, Poaceae, in the subfamily Panicoideae, in the tribe Andropogoneae – the same as maize (Zea mayz), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi), and sugarcane (Saccharum spp.).


Accepted species recorded include:[6]

Heap at a West African market
West African market
A plate of sorghum grain

Genetics and genomics

Agrobacterium transformation can be used on this genus.[7] Che et al., 2018 provides such a transformation system with a good success rate.[7]

Bekele et al., 2013 develops and validates an SNP array for molecular breeding.[8]

Distribution and habitat

Seventeen of the 25 species are native to Australia,[9][10] with the range of some extending to Africa, Asia, Mesoamerica, and certain islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.[11][12]


Sorghum production – 2022[13]
Country Production (MT, ST, LT)
Nigeria Nigeria 7,700; 6,900
United States USA 6,602; 5,894
Sudan Sudan 5,500; 4,900
Mexico Mexico 5,350; 4,770
Ethiopia Ethiopia 5,000; 4,400
India India 4,900; 4,300
Others 31,220; 27,875
Total 66,206; 59,112

Nigeria accounts for 12% of world sorghum production and the United States accounts for 10%. Other major sorghum-producing countries are Sudan, Mexico, Ethiopia, India, Argentina, China, and Brazil.


In the early stages of the plants' growth, some species of sorghum can contain levels of hydrogen cyanide, hordenine, and nitrates, which are lethal to grazing animals. Plants stressed by drought or heat can also contain toxic levels of cyanide and nitrates at later stages in growth.[14][15]


The grains are edible and nutritious. It can be eaten raw when young and milky, but has to be boiled when older.[16]

One species, S. bicolor,[17] native to Africa with many cultivated forms,[18] is an important crop worldwide, used for food (in the form of grain or sorghum syrup), animal fodder, the production of alcoholic beverages, and biofuels. Sorghum's cultivation has been linked by archeological research back to ancient Sudan around 6,000 to 7,000 BP.[19]

All sorghums contain phenolic acids, and most contain flavonoids.[20] Sorghum grains are one of the highest food sources of the flavonoid proanthocyanidin.[21] Total phenol content (in both phenolic acids and flavonoids) is correlated with antioxidant activity.[20] Antioxidant activity is high in sorghums having dark pericarp and pigmented testa.[20] The antioxidant activity of sorghum may explain the reduced incidence of certain cancers in populations consuming sorghum.[20]

The Indian flatbreads paratha and roti are made from sorghum flour.

Popped sorghum is popular as a snack in India. The popped sorghum is similar to popcorn, but the puffs are smaller.[22] Like popcorn, popping sorghum is done by microwave, in a pot, or other similar ways. It may also be used as a flavoring for clarified butter (ghee).

In China, sorghum flour is used in combination with wheat flour to make noodles and breads.[23]

Most varieties are drought- and heat-tolerant, nitrogen-efficient,[24] and are especially important in arid and semi-arid regions, where the grain is one of the staples for poor and rural people. These varieties form important components of forage in many tropical regions. S. bicolor is an important food crop in Africa, Central America, and South Asia, and is the fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world.[25][26]

In Nigeria, the pulverized red leaf-sheaths of sorghum have been used as a dyestuff to dye leather.[27] In Algeria it has been used not only to dye leather, but also to dye wool.[27]

Role in global economy

Global demand for sorghum increased dramatically between 2013 and 2015, when China began purchasing US sorghum crops to use as livestock feed as a substitute for domestically grown corn. China purchased around $1 billion worth of American sorghum per year until April 2018, when China imposed retaliatory duties on American sorghum as part of the trade war between the two countries.[28]


  1. ^ "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew". Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  2. ^ Hariprasanna, K.; Patil, J. V. (2015), Madhusudhana, R.; Rajendrakumar, P.; Patil, J.V. (eds.), "Sorghum: Origin, Classification, Biology and Improvement", Sorghum Molecular Breeding, New Delhi: Springer India, pp. 3–20, doi:10.1007/978-81-322-2422-8_1, ISBN 978-81-322-2421-1, retrieved 1 June 2023
  3. ^ "Sorghum". County-level distribution maps from the North American Plant Atlas (NAPA). Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  4. ^ "Earliest Evidence of Domesticated Sorghum Discovered". Science News. 28 September 2017. Archived from the original on 9 February 2023. Retrieved 4 July 2023.
  5. ^ Welsby, Derek (2002). The Medieval Kingdoms of Nubia. Pagans, Christians and Muslims Along the Middle Nile. British Museum. ISBN 978-0-7141-1947-2.
  6. ^ "The Plant List: Sorghum". Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Missouri Botanic Garden. 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  7. ^ a b Guo, Minliang; Ye, Jingyang; Gao, Dawei; Xu, Nan; Yang, Jing (2019). "Agrobacterium-mediated horizontal gene transfer: Mechanism, biotechnological application, potential risk and forestalling strategy". Research review paper. Biotechnology Advances. Elsevier Inc. 37 (1): 259–270. doi:10.1016/j.biotechadv.2018.12.008. eISSN 1873-1899. ISSN 0734-9750. PMID 30579929. S2CID 58600661.
  8. ^ This review
    Varshney, Rajeev; Bohra, Abhishek; Yu, Jianming; Graner, Andreas; Zhang, Qifa; Sorrells, Mark (2021). "Designing Future Crops: Genomics-Assisted Breeding Comes of Age". Feature Review. Trends in Plant Science. Cell Press. 26 (6): 631–649. doi:10.1016/j.tplants.2021.03.010. ISSN 1360-1385. PMID 33893045. S2CID 233382115.
    cites this research
    Bekele, Wubishet; Wieckhorst, Silke; Friedt, Wolfgang; Snowdon, Rod (2013). "High-throughput genomics in sorghum: from whole-genome resequencing to a SNP screening array". Plant Biotechnology Journal. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 11 (9): 1112–1125. doi:10.1111/pbi.12106. ISSN 1467-7644. PMID 23919585. S2CID 206248573.
  9. ^ This review... Henry, Robert; Furtado, Agnelo; Brozynska, Marta (2016). "Genomics of crop wild relatives: expanding the gene pool for crop improvement". Review article. Plant Biotechnology Journal. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 14 (4): 1070–85. doi:10.1111/pbi.12454. eISSN 1467-7652. ISSN 1467-7644. PMID 26311018. S2CID 3402991. ...cites this study: Dillon, Sally L.; Lawrence, Peter K.; Henry, Robert J.; Ross, Larry; Price, H. James; Johnston, J. Spencer. "Sorghum laxiflorum and S. macrospermum, the Australian native species most closely related to the cultivated S. bicolor based on ITS1 and ndhF sequence analysis of 28 Sorghum species". Plant Systematics and Evolution. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1007/s00606-004-0210-7. eISSN 1615-6110. ISSN 0378-2697. S2CID 27363366. — Archive: Sally L Dillon; Peter K Lawrence; Robert J Henry; Larry Ross; H James Price; J Spencer Johnston (2004). "Sorghum laxiflorum and S. macrospermum, the Australian native species most closely related to the cultivated S. bicolor based on ITS1 and ndhF sequence analysis of 25 Sorghum species". Plant Systematics and Evolution. Southern Cross University. 249 (3–4): 233–246. doi:10.1007/s00606-004-0210-7. Archived from the original on 13 August 2022. Retrieved 4 July 2023.
  10. ^ Atlas of Living Australia. "Sorghum - Atlas of Living Australia". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  11. ^ "Tropicos, Sorghum Moench". Tropicos. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Flora of China Vol. 22 Page 600 高粱属 gao liang shu Sorghum Moench, Methodus. 207. 1794". Efloras. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Sorghum Explorer". Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  14. ^ "Cyanide (prussic acid) and nitrate in sorghum crops". Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries. 7 November 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  15. ^ "Sorghum". Victoria, Australia: Agriculture Victoria. Archived from the original on 2 October 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  16. ^ United States Department of the Army (2009). The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-60239-692-0. OCLC 277203364.
  17. ^ Mutegi, Evans; Sagnard, Fabrice; Muraya, Moses; et al. (1 February 2010). "Ecogeographical distribution of wild, weedy and cultivated Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench in Kenya: implications for conservation and crop-to-wild gene flow" (PDF). Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 57 (2): 243–253. doi:10.1007/s10722-009-9466-7. S2CID 28318220.
  18. ^ Hauser, Stefan; Wairegi, Lydia; Asadu, Charles L. A.; Asawalam, Damian O.; Jokthan, Grace; Ugbe, Utiang (2015). "Sorghum- and millet-legume cropping systems" (PDF). Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International and Africa Soil Health Consortium. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  19. ^ Carney, Judith (2009). In the Shadow of Slavery. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. p. 16. ISBN 9780520269965.
  20. ^ a b c d Dykes, Linda; Rooney, Lloyd W. (2006). "Sorghum and millet phenols and antioxidants" (PDF). Journal of Cereal Science. Elsevier. 44 (3): 236–251. doi:10.1016/j.jcs.2006.06.007.
  21. ^ Luca, Simon Vlad; Macovei, Irina; Bujor, Alexandra; Miron, Anca; Skalicka-Woźniak, Krystyna; Aprotosoaie, Ana Clara; Trifan, Adriana (2020). "Bioactivity of dietary polyphenols: The role of metabolites". Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 60 (4): 626–659. doi:10.1080/10408398.2018.1546669. PMID 30614249. S2CID 58651581.
  22. ^ "Popped Sorghum". Recipes. Bob's Red Mill. 2021. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  23. ^ Longmeimei cooking channel: 第一次做高粱馒头和面条,费了很大功夫Sorghum Bread and Sorghum Noodles, archived from the original on 11 December 2021, retrieved 26 June 2021
  24. ^ Mulhollem, Jeff (10 August 2020). "Flavonoids' presence in sorghum roots may lead to frost-resistant crop". Pennsylvania State University. … sorghum is a crop that can respond to climate change because of its high water- and nitrogen-use efficiency …
  25. ^ Tove Danovich (15 December 2015). "Move over, quinoa: sorghum is the new 'wonder grain'". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  26. ^ Willy H. Verheye, ed. (2010). "Growth and Production of Sorghum and Millets". Soils, Plant Growth and Crop Production. Vol. II. EOLSS Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84826-368-0.
  27. ^ a b Dalziel, J.M. (1926). "African Leather Dyes". Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 6: 230. JSTOR 4118651.
  28. ^ "Sorghum, targeted by tariffs, is a U.S. crop China started buying only five years ago". LA Times. 18 April 2018. Retrieved 28 January 2019.

Further reading