Sorghum is the fifth most important grain crop after maize, wheat, rice and barley. Sorghum farming in Kenya is an important agricultural activity in the economy. The crop is grown in western, northern Rift Valley, eastern and some parts of Central Province. The crop is fairly drought resistant and thus it is quite popular in drier areas of the Kenya. One of the major companies that buy sorghum from farmer in Kenya is East Africa Breweries Limited
For both forage and food varieties of sorghum, start preparing the land at the end of the rains following a crop season. Sorghum does well in sandy soils. It can also be grown where the soils are not disturbed much (where conservation tillage is practiced).
E6518: Matures in 230 days (about seven-and-half months). It produces about 33 90kg bags of sorghum grain and 230kg 90kgbags of fodder per acre. The plant attains a height of 3m. This variety is suitable for fodder.
E1291: Matures in 160 days (about five months). One acre produces 66 90kg bags of sorghum grain, 66kg of sorghum matter and 200kg dry matter. It grows to 1.7m. The variety is suitable for food and fodder.
Ikinyaruka: Matures in 160 days. It produces 77 90kg bags of sorghum and 200kg dry matter per acre. The variety is suitable for both food and fodder. It grows to a height of 1.7 metres.
BJ28: Matures in 110 days and produces 156 bags of fodder and 33kg dry matter per acre. It grows to 2.5 metres. The variety is good for food and fodder.
BM30:Matures in 210 days and produce 66kg 90kg bags of grains per acre, 244kg DM. Grows up to a height of 2.5m
Seed rate and spacing
Farmers should plant sorghum at a seed rate of 2.4-3.2 kg per acre (6-8 kg/ha). Fodder varieties of sorghum should be planted at a spacing of 75 X 10 cm.
Sorghum withstand dry conditions of 600 mm annual rainfall and remain green at very low moisture levels. It provides the farmers with for feed and grain (dual-purpose sorghum) requires a spacing of 60 x 20 cm; this spacing allows for a higher grain-fodder ratio.
Sorghum should be sown at the onset of the long rains. Drill seeds along the furrows (trenches). Seeds should be planted 3 cm deep when dry planting to avoid germination in false rains, but 2 cm deep if the ground is wet.
Well-composted manure should be applied during land preparation and worked into the soil. Organic foliar feeds can be added when the plant is knee high.
The crop should be thinned when it is 30 cm high or 30 days after planting, whichever comes first, to ensure a spacing of 75 X 10 cm between rows for fodder sorghum and 60 X 20 cm between rows for dual-purpose varieties. The spacing for dual purpose varieties allows for higher grain to herbage ratio.
Hand weeding should be done at least twice. A sorghum field should be kept weed-free especially at early stages of growth.
Pest and disease control
Control of cutworms, aphids, shoot-fly and stalk borer is important. Birds like sorghum especially at milk stage; they prefer white-seeded varieties. Sorghum is generally disease tolerant. Control disease when necessary.
Sorghum meant for seed production should be harvested at maturity stage. Sorghum meant for feed can be cut when still green and fresh. Leave it in sun to allow wilting for 12 hours then chop and then feed the animals. To make silage, start harvesting at dough stage (between milky and hardening stage). For dual-purpose sorghum, cut the head with a knife or use a combine harvester.