Regional QLD Summer Crop: Sorghum
In this post, we take a closer look at Queensland’s top producing crop, Sorghum. According to UQ, current soil water conditions and seasonal rainfall outlook indicate a high chance of an above average yielding sorghum crop for the 2017/18 summer growing season.
What is Sorghum?
Also known as great millet, sorghum is an edible starchy seeds. Grass sorghums are grown for hay and fodder and it plays a key role in providing feed grains to the beef, dairy, pig and poultry industries. It is a good rotation crop that tolerates heat and moisture stress, and performs better than maize in soils with marginal potassium levels. Sorghum is especially valued in hot and arid regions for its resistance to drought and heat.
What does it look like?
Sorghum grass is very strong and usually grows a height of 0.6 to 2.4 metres but can sometimes grow as high as 4.6 metres. Stalks and leaves are coated with a white wax and the pith (central portion) of the stalks of certain varieties can be juicy and sweet. The leaves are about 5cm broad and 76cm long. The tiny flowers are produced in panicles that range from loose to dense; each flower cluster bears 800–3,000 kernels. The seeds vary widely among different types in colour, shape, and size, but they are smaller than those of wheat.
While sorghum is known to be of a lower food quality than corn (maize), it’s high in carbohydrates with 10% protein, 3.4% fat and contains calcium and small amounts of iron, vitamin B1 and niacin. For human consumption, this gluten-free grain is usually ground into a meal that is made into porridge, flatbreads, and cakes. The characteristic strong flavour can be reduced by processing.
The grain can also used in making edible oil, starch, dextrose (sugar), paste, and alcoholic beverages. Sweet sorghums, or sorgos, are grown mainly in the United States and southern Africa for forage and for syrup manufacture and are sometimes used in the production of ethyl alcohol for biofuel.
Productivity gains in Australian sorghum are the highest in the world, and industry growth is also among the highest, globally, for any cereal crop. In 2015, for the first time, sorghum overtook wheat to become Queensland’s most important cereal crop, with a farm gate value of $432 million.
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