Sorghum Production

Ecological requirements for sorghum production


Ecological requirements for sorghum production

  • Sorghum is adapted to a wide range of ecological conditions, surviving in the tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate regions of the world.
  • It is planted in areas considered to be too dry and hot for other cereals to survive because of its tolerance to drought and heat stress.
  • The adaptability enables sorghum to grow from sea level to above 2000m above sea level.
  • However, sorghum performs well under optimum conditions of deep well-drained fertile soils, moderate to high relatively stable rainfall distribution most of which should be received during the vegetative phase and temperate to warm weather (20-30°C).
  • These conditions result in yield potential of 3000-5000Kgha-1 if improved cultivars are used.
  • Unfortunately, the high yield potential is not realized in Uganda because farmers grow low yield potential sorghum under low-input semi-arid conditions


  • Sorghum grows well in a wide range of soils except in waterlogged places.
  • It grows best on well-drained fertile soils with a moderate amount of organic matter at soil pH values between 6 and 7.5.
  • At this pH range, most nutrients are more easily assimilated by the plant roots.
  • It has some tolerance to salt and aluminum toxicity.
  • However, in Uganda sorghum is mainly grown on low potential, shallow soils with high clay-loam or sandy-loam texture.
  • The soils are deficient in nitrogen and phosphorous and mainly acidic.
  • Thus there is a need to ameliorate the soils by liming to lower the acidity in order to attain optimum productivity of sorghum.


  • Sorghum is a warm-weather crop, which requires high temperatures for good germination and growth.
  • Low temperatures may prevent the successful production of grain sorghum.
  • Soil temperature at planting time is critical for grain sorghum.
  • The recommended temperature for germination is 17-18°C while lower temperature prolongs germination.
  • The best time to plant is when there is sufficient moisture in the soil.
  • Temperature is important for the normal growth and development of sorghum after germination.
  • A temperature of 27 to 30°C is required for optimum growth and development through the crop can still survive below 21 °C, without a dramatic effect on growth and yield.
  • Fortunately, the temperature in most sorghum growing areas of Uganda is above 200C except in the southwestern regions with <200C, indicating that temperature is not a constraint to production.

Day length

  • Sorghum is a short-day plant requiring long night hours before the reproductive stage.
  • Thus varieties introduced from the temperate regions into tropical regions fail to develop seed because of photoperiodism.
  • The optimum photoperiod, which will induce flower formation, is between 10 and 11 hours.
  • Photoperiods longer than 12 hours stimulate vegetative growth.
  • Sorghum plants are most sensitive to photoperiod during flower initiation.
  • However, most of the improved varieties developed for Uganda’s conditions are not sensitive to photoperiodism and can thus perform well in almost all parts of Uganda.


  • Sorghum is known to be drought tolerant and can do well in areas with little rainfall but performs better in conditions where water is available.
  • It can be grown under hot and dry conditions with its roots penetrating a greater volume of soil to obtain moisture.
  • Water requirement increases and reaches its peak during flowering.
  • In Uganda, sorghum grows under fluctuating rainfall conditions of approximately 82-130 mm per month.
  • Some varieties have physiological mechanisms, such as stay green, for avoiding the effects of droughts.
  • Stay green trait promotes adaptation to drought by producing waxy leaves and stems that protect the plant form desiccation.
  • The leaves fold up and stomata close rapidly to limit water loss during warm and dry conditions.
  • The stay green mechanism involves reducing tillering, increasing the size of lower leaves and constraining the size of the upper leaves and decreasing the number of leaves per culm.
  • This results in reduced pre-flowering water demand, thereby increasing water availability during grain filling and, ultimately, grain yield.
  • Sorghum also has the ability to remain in a virtually dormant stage and resume growth as soon as conditions become favorable.
  • Even though the main stem can die, side shoots can develop and form seed when the water supply improves.
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