Introduction to Organic Sorghum Farming
Sorghum is one of the top cereal crops in the world, along with oats, wheat, corn, rice, and barley. Sorghum is one of the cereal crops that can be used for food and feed. It has wide adaptability and tolerance to environmental stress. An annual grass that is very drought tolerant, Sorghum is an excellent choice for arid and dry areas. It has special adaptations to climate extremes and is a very stable source of nutrition as a result. It is most commonly red and hard when ripe and is usually dried after harvesting for longevity, as the grains are stored whole. Sorghum can be harvested mechanically, although higher crop losses will result if the Sorghum is too moist.
A Step By Step Guide to Organic Sorghum Farming
The nutritional value of Sorghum is similar to that of corn and that is why it is gaining importance as livestock feed. Sorghum is also used for ethanol production, producing grain alcohol, starch production, production of adhesives and paper other than being used as food and feed for livestock. Organic Sorghum cultivation is gaining popularity due to its nature of extreme drought tolerance. Sorghum is very nutritious just like corn and can be used as green fodder, dry fodder, hay, or silage.
Sorghum is a vigorous, hardy, and drought-tolerant crop, which grows up to 4 meters tall and has a high potential yield. It is a perennial grass but is mostly cultivated as an annual crop. Sorghum can go into dormancy during drought conditions and resume growth when the rains come because it has a more efficient root system than most cereal crops (except millet) and rolls its leaves to reduce evapotranspiration.
Varieties of Sorghum
The best varieties of Sorghum are;
- Grain Sorghum is also called milo, produces tall panicles covered with small, round seeds in late summer. The grain Sorghum can be milled into fresh flour, and some varieties such as ‘Tarahumara’ can be popped like popcorn. Cracked grain Sorghum makes excellent animal feed.
- Sweet Sorghum, is also called cane Sorghum, is grown for the sweet juice that is extracted from the tall stalks. The ‘Dale’ variety is produced in a range of climates, or you can try heirloom sweet Sorghum varieties like ‘Rox Orange’ Or ‘Sugar Drip.’
- Broom corn is one type of Sorghum that holds its seeds on sturdy straws, perfect for trimming into brooms. The ornamental tops can also use in dried arrangements. Broom corn varieties vary in the colour of the seeds, which may be black, red, orange or white. The seeds are eagerly eaten by chickens and other animals and are most palatable when cracked.
Organic Soil Preparation for Sorghum Farming
The various soil types viz., vertisols, entisols, inceptisols, or alfisols are suitable for growing Sorghum. Vertisols with better cation exchange capacity, higher nutrient status, and water retention support the good crop. The crop is grown successfully on soil with pH ranging from 5.5 to 8.5. It tolerates salinity and alkalinity. Under good climatic conditions, Sorghum does best on deep fertile soils. It is adapted to poor soils and can grow well on soils where many other crops would fail.
Soil fertility is a crucial factor in the success of Sorghum yield. When managing soil nutrients for Sorghum it is important to consider the soil type, organic content matter within the soil as well as soil pH value. Factoring in the soil’s crop history, what was planted the previous year, is crucial, especially if the previous crop was a legume like alfalfa or soybeans. Knowing the manure application history can also help you understand your soil’s fertility.
Soil nutrient testing is critical in determining the number of nutrients to add by fertilizing. Soil testing starts with proper soil sampling. If the precision application of fertilizer is an option, consider grid sampling. Once soil test results are available, it is important to understand how to interpret the results to best help in maintaining good soil health.
Crop rotation in Sorghum Farming
Crop rotation is a cultural management method that involves alternate use of nonhost and host crops in a field to reduce insect pest abundance and damage. Sorghum benefits most when rotated with a broadleaf or tap rooted crop such as cotton, or soybean. Growing Sorghum in a field planted to a different, nonhost crop the earlier year significantly decreases the abundance of some insect pests, as well as some diseases and weeds.
Crop rotation is most effective against insect pests with a limited host range, long life cycle (one or fewer generations a year), and limited ability to move from one field to another. For example, some species of wireworms, white grubs, and some cutworms have only one generation a year, must have a grass-type crop on which to develop and reproduce, and because they live underground cannot during the damaging larval stage move from one field to another. Therefore, growing a non-grass crop such as cotton or soybean the year before growing Sorghum reduces the abundance of soil-inhabiting insect pests in Sorghum fields. Sorghum should be rotated annually with other crops.
Seed Rate and Sowing in Organic Sorghum Farming
A seed rate of 5 to 6 kg seed per acre is sufficient to ensure a good stand of the crop. Sowing should be carried out by drilling by a row-to-row distance of 25 cm. Seed broadcasting should be avoided. The seed should not be sowed more than 2 to 3 cm depth.
The seeds are sown in rows 45 cm apart with a plant to plant distance of 12 cm and at a depth of 3 to 4 cm. Sown the Sorghum seeds either by broadcasting or in rows behind the plough. In northern India, Jowar is sown only during the Kharif season. In irrigated, areas, the first week of July has been found suitable for the sowing of improved varieties. Under non irrigated conditions, sowing should be done preferably within a week after the onset of first monsoon showers. Rabi sowing is done mainly in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka. Rabi sowing should be done after the second fortnight of September to the middle of October. Summer crop of Jowar is sown in January and February in irrigated areas of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh some parts of Karnataka.
Planting Time in Planting Method in Organic Sorghum Farming
Planting time of Sorghum in most locales should be as early as practical but not when soil is too cool for rapid seed germination and seedling growth. In many areas, early planting takes advantage of seasonal rainfall. Planting early avoids damage and infestation because the Sorghum plant is beyond the vulnerable stage when some insect pests are abundant enough to cause damage, or at the very least, the crop is susceptible for a shorter period.
Uniform and early planting of Sorghum to avoid a damaging Sorghum midge infestation is an excellent example of the benefit of planting early. Planting Sorghum early avoids high numbers of corn earworms, Sorghum webworms, fall armyworms, stalk borers, and panicle-feeding bugs. There is no rush to plant Sorghum, which requires warm soil to germinate and grow. Even in warm climates, Sorghum is customarily planted in late May or early June.
Make soil much as you would for corn, and be sure to mix a balanced organic fertilizer into the bed or row before planting. Unlike corn, Sorghum is self-fertile, so a large plot is not required for pollination purposes. Sow seeds one-half inch deep and 4 inches apart, and thin to 8 inches apart when the seedlings are 4 inches tall.
Organic Fertilizers and Manures in Sorghum Farming
Smallholder farmers rarely apply commercial fertilizers. But the application of farmyard manure or ash is quite common. Application of organic fertilizers like animal manure or compost to the field increases the water storage capacity of the soil and provides nutrients to the soil. Better availability of water and nutrients results in higher grain yields of Sorghum. The nutrient requirements of the crop are highest during rapid growth and early bloom. Requirements of the main nutrient’s nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for an average yield of 7,500 kg per hectare are 185 kg N, 80 kg P2O5, and 285 kg K2O. Without any provision of nutrients, production depends on soil- stored nutrients only, which in poor soils will give low yields.
Grain Sorghum responds well to a balanced supply of plant nutrients. Nitrogen is best supplied by growing the crop after a legume crop or leguminous green manure and/or through the application of manure. In contrast, the application of compost will supply balanced nutrients and improve soil properties. Animal manures and compost are best applied before land preparation by spreading them in the field and incorporating them into the soil before planting. If the land is prepared using a ripper only, which leaves the soil surface largely untouched, organic manures are best applied to the furrow and mixed with the soil into which Sorghum will be planted. The standard farm wheelbarrow holds approximately 25 kg of dry manure or compost. For a low rate of fertilization two wheelbarrows are enough for an area of 10 meters by 10 meters, making 200 wheelbarrows or 5 tons of manure or compost per hectare. For a high rate of 400 wheelbarrows or 10 tons are to be applied per hectare.
The organic manures or fertilizers recommend for Sorghum crop are farmyard manure and composted coir pith. They are important sources of macro and micronutrients. It is suggested that the organic matter level of 5 to 6% or 2.5 to 3% organic carbon in soil will lead to sustainable crop production. Organic manures improve soil fertility, tilth, and aeration. Stimulate the activity of microorganisms that convert the complex organic materials into simple substances that are readily absorbed by plants. The quantity and method of application are given in land preparation.
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Irrigation Requirements in Organic Sorghum Farming
If the crop is sown in monsoon time (July) and it may require l to 3 irrigations depending upon rains. For summer crops, 6 to 7 irrigations may be carried out due to high temperatures. In South India, Rabi season crops need about 4 to 5 irrigations.
Irrigation helps sorghum crop through;
- Allows efficient use of inputs
- Increases yield
- Improves the quality of grain
- Improves reliability and reduces risk
- Increases profitability
Organic Pest and Diseases Control in Sorghum Farming
- Rotting of roots and premature death
- Infected stalk tissue turns dark red
- Lodging of plants
- Crop rotation
- Use resistant cultivars
- Proper spacing
- Orange, red- or blackish purple leaves
- Small leaves with a circular or elliptical shape
- Use resistant cultivars (hybrids)
- Rotation with pulses
- Encourage decomposition of crop
- Sorghum kernels are replaced by a cone-shaped gall (Covered kernel smut)
- Long and pointed galls formed by loose kernels (Loose kernel smut)
- Large, dark-brown smut galls emerging in place of the panicle (Head smut)
- Use resistant cultivars or certified disease-free seeds
- Hot water treatment of seeds
- Crop rotation with non-cereals
- Removal of infected panicles
- Vivid green and white stripes on the leaves and heads
- Heads partially or completely sterile
- At least 3 years between two Sorghum or maize crops
- Use of resistant cultivars
- Use of clean, properly dried seeds
- Proper plant spacing
Preventive and cultural measures
- Use of tolerant cultivars (for late planting mainly)
- Early, uniform sowing at high seeding rates
- Intercropping of legumes (non-host plants)
- Removal of wild grass species
- Incorporation of crop residues into the soil
- Removal and destruction of infected plants
- Spraying of Bacillus thuringiensis against larvae
- Spraying of Neem solution against larvae
Preventive and cultural measures
- Early sowing
- Intercropping of repelling plants
- Promotion of natural enemies
- Planting of Napier grass as a trap crop
- Destruction of infected crop residues after the harvest
- Application of a Neem- or a fish bean plant extract sawdust/clay mixture into the funnel of young plants
Preventive and cultural measures
- Early and uniform sowing with high densities
- Use of resistant cultivars
- Crop rotation and intercropping with pulses
- Removal of host weed species
- Incorporation of crop residues after harvest
- Spraying of pyrethrum extract
When and How to Harvest Sorghum
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The best time for harvest is when grains become hard and contain less than 25% moisture. Once the crop gets mature, harvest it immediately. For harvesting, sickles are used. The plants are cut from near the ground level. After then stalks are tied into bundles of convenient sizes and stacked on the threshing floor. After 2 to 3 days removed ear heads from plants. In some cases, only ear heads are removed from the standing crop and collected on the threshing floor. After then they are sundry for 3 to 4 days.
Post-Harvest Management in Organic Sorghum Farming
- The cleaned grains must be dried in sun for about a week to bring the moisture content down to 13 to 15% for safe storage.
- Winnowing is done for separating the grains from husk.
- Threshing is done with the help of thresher or by beating the ear heads with a stick or by trampling bullocks. Then impurities should be removed.
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