25.08.2012

Sorghum is a very promising crop

Deterioration of climatic conditions in main grain regions of CIS countries makes agricultural producers consider non-traditional crops, which can yield and generate profit even in a dry season. Ukraine and Russia are now facing a real «sorghum-boom», because exceptional drought resistance, high yields and a growth of demand in the world market make this crop very promising for domestic farmers.

Sorghum is a relatively new crop in Ukraine. It is mainly produced for silage and green biomass. Sorghum belongs to xerophytes, which doesn’t die after cutting (unlike other annual grain crops) and allows to harvest 2-3 cuts of biomass. At the same time its grain is comparable with barley and corn in terms of nutritional value, and some parameters are even higher. For example, 100 kg of sorghum grain contains 118-130 feed units, green biomass — 24-25, silage — 22-23; green mass contains 80-90 g of digestible protein/feed unit; protein content in sorghum grain amounts to 12-14%.

Using grain sorghum in the industry with a quick turnover, such as poultry farming, pig farming, pond fish culture ensures quick payback and high profitability. Ground grain sorghum is an excellent feed for cows, sheep, goats and other livestock.

Moreover, sorghum is a valuable raw material for food industry. One ton of sorghum grain can be processed into 650-700 kg of starch or 300-350 liters of spirit, which is 35 liters more than using 1 ton of corn.

During the last 50 years the area under sorghum experienced a 60% increase, while grain production experienced 244% increase. Main countries that produce sorghum are USA, Nigeria, India, Mexico, Sudan, China, Ethiopia, Argentina, Australia and Brazil.

In 1980s this crop was grown on 15 million hectares in the USSR. 80% of harvested grain were used by livestock farms and 10% were processed by starch factories.

In Ukraine an increased interest of farmers to sorghum emerged in the early 2000. While in 2003 Ukrainian farmers planted sorghum on 25,000 hectares, in 2008 this area increased to 122,000 hectares. The economic crisis and uncertainty in the grain market in 2008-2009 resulted in significant reduction of sorghum areas in Ukraine. In 2010 the area under sorghum was only 32,000 hectares.

Today, the interest to this unpretentious, but very profitable crop is growing. Constant droughts in Eastern and Southern Ukraine result in reduction of yield of traditional forage crops, i.e. barley and corn. According to scientists the area under sorghum in Ukraine can be expanded to 1.7 million hectares, supplying additional 3.4-3.9 million tons of feed units.

There is a constantly growing demand for sorghum in Ukraine. This grain is purchased by poultry farmers and traders for export. By the way, since Middle East and African countries are the main consumers of sorghum grain, Ukraine as an exporter of this product is better located in terms of geography than the large producers of this crop, such as USA, India and Argentina.

Perhaps, the only obstacle for our farmers is lack of information about sorghum. Despite its drought tolerance and relative easiness in production, this crop has some specific features of production and consumption.

Agro-Soyuz has been growing sorghum for about 5 years and now this crop accounts for about 25% in the crop rotation.

Since 2011 the Sorghum Day is traditionally held at model agricultural enterprise of Agro-Soyuz. The event is usually stirs interest and gathers about 150 farmers from Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan. The participants of the Sorghum Day obtain a lot of information about advantages of sorghum and the nuances of producing it, which helps to take a decision if production of this crop makes sense and if yes, how to do it efficiently.