The various species of sorghum have been crossed and hybridised to suit different end uses and a wide range of growing conditions. Most sorghum varieties grown in Australia are hybrids, developed for grain or forage end use. Sorghum is a vigorous and quick growing plant but hybrids grown in Australia are generally not as tall as their traditional counterparts. Sorghum has branched, tillers, broad leaves (2.5–4cm) and a long dense seed head.
Grain sorghum is a major component of the dryland cropping system of subtropical Australia, with approximately 60% of the Australian crop grown in Queensland and the remainder in New South Wales (predominantly northern NSW). Small areas of the crop are produced in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Grain sorghum is Australia’s most significant summer grain crop, in terms of area sown and quantity of grain produced. It is a key feed grain for the beef, dairy, pig and poultry industries. Grain sorghum is generally produced on large agricultural enterprises (several hundred or thousands of hectares), as a dryland or irrigated crop, and it is grown in rotation with winter and summer crops (cereals, oilseeds and grain legumes) depending on climate and availability of soil moisture/irrigation.
Australia produces approximately 1.4 million tonnes of sorghum per annum, of which around one million tonnes was exported annually, mainly to Asia.
Facts and figures
- Grain sorghum is grown mainly in Queensland and northern New South Wales for use as stock feed
- Grain sorghum is the major summer grain crop for most regions in Queensland
- Sorghum is emerging as a potentially valuable biofuel crop
Australia’s grain sorghum industry has grown from less than 2000 hectares of plantings just after World War II to, on average, about 470,000 hectares of plantings.
Australia’s annual sorghum production is variable depending on seasonal conditions. Production has been as high as 3.7 million tonnes in 2007 and as low as just under one million tonnes in 2016.