Comprehensive sorghum farming guide

This is the Comprehensive sorghum farming guide to enable you start and grow your sorghum for domestic or commercial purposes. Sorghum and also known as great millet, durra, jowari / jowar, or milo, is a grass species cultivated for its grain, which is used for food for humans, animal feed, and ethanol production. Sorghum originated in Africa, and is now cultivated widely in tropical and subtropical regions Before venturing into sorghum farming in Kenya or anywhere there are a variety of questions you have asked yourselves, we intend to guide you on sorghum farming and answer all these questions here.

  • How long does it take for sorghum to grow and mature?
  • Which is the best fertilizer for sorghum?
  • How to grow sorghum in Kenya?
  • How profitable is sorghum farming in Kenya
  • How long does it take for sorghum seedlings to germinate?
  • Sorghum market in Kenya
  • Sorghum pest and diseases
  • How much sorghum do you plant per acre


Sorghum is produced in a wide range of soil types and agro-climatic zones. It does well in heavy clay soils (vertisols) and light sandy soils with a pH ranging from 5.0-8.5. Sorghum crops grow best in warm areas. They are grown on a wide range of soils. Sorghum is sensitive to nematodes, especially on sandy soils, and therefore sorghum must not be grown continuously on its own nor in a close rotation with maize.

There are various varieties of sorghum cereals grown in Kenya listed below

  • Serena, Seredo
  • IS76, KARI/MTAMA 1
  • E1291, E6518


Land preparation for sorghum should start promptly after the previous crop is harvested. This allows adequate time for; infiltration and storage of soil moisture, the decay of crop residue and soil firming. For optimum production of sorghum, the row spacing for sorghum is between 60-75cm by 20cm between plants depending on the variety. In places where an ox is used to plough the land and the row spacing is fixed at 90cm, the recommended plant spacing is 15cm.

Fertilizer application is done at the rate of 2 bags per acre at planting. When the crops get to knee-height, it is recommended that you top dress the crop using CAN.

Basal fertilizer is broadcast and incorporated by disking before planting can commence. The common practice of planting is broadcasting seed on a well ploughed land (with fine tilth) and covering lightly using a light harrow, roller, bush drag by cattle over the lands and covered to a depth of 2-3 cm. Mechanical planting using seed drill can also be done but this will require high seed rates and will require more labor for thinning

After planting your sorghum regulars farm practices continues which include;



Sorghum should be thinned ,Thinning should be done to establish an in- row spacing of 15-20 cm and this should be
done before tilling begins and is normally done 4 weeks after emergence This ensures proper air circulation within the crop, promoting sufficient performance.


If the soil is not moist enough, (which could be due to inadequate rainfall), supplemental watering should be done. At flowering stage, enough moisture for the sorghum should be ensured.


Weeding of sorghum is done by uprooting unwanted plants that grows with the sorghum to ensure that pest and diseases are prevented and also competition for nutrients with plants are reduced and discouraged. Sorghum can be intercropped with legumes such as beans and cowpeas. Intercropping of sorghum and cowpeas helps in weed and pest control as cowpeas act as a trap crop


1. Leaf Blight: This is common in southern Africa, and is favored by moderate air temperatures and wet conditions or heavy dews. Dry weather retards the disease. Rotation with non-susceptible crops (non-grasses) aids in destruction of infected residue thereby reducing the level of primary infection.
2. Downey mildew: Infested seedling leaves are chlorotic, stunted and pre-mature death may result. Use of Seed Co resistant varieties is the smartest control method
3. Smut: Ear head becomes swollen and turn grey. Use of Seed Co resistant varieties is the smartest control method


  • Stalk borers
  • Shoot fly
  • Bedbugs
  • Birds

Maturity period of sorghum is at 90 to 120 days depending on variety and ecological conditions. Harvesting is normally done when plants reach physiological maturity. Leaves will be turning yellowish and beginning to dry up naturally. Harvesting of sorghum should be done early to avoid losses from birds, insects, mold and bad weather. The ideal time to harvest sorghum is when the moisture content is below 20% as the seeds will have hardened enough to withstand threshing action. You can harvest sorghum by cutting the head using a knife. You can alternatively use a combine harvester if a large tract of land is to be harvested

After harvesting sorghum ensure to dry to 12% moisture content before storing.


High demand for sorghum crops has provided ready market for this kind of cereal. Sorghum can be sold in; Currently, the cost of a 90kg bag of sorghum ranges from Ksh.3000-5000

  • Open air market
  • Hotels and schools
  • Groceries and supermarket
  • Consumers market
  • Processing factories

The suitable seeding rate for sorghum seeds size of sorghum cultivars varies fromĀ 30 000 to 40 000 grains per kilogram. Recommendations therefore, vary from 3.0 to 7.0 kilogram seed per hectare. Sorghum is normally planted with maize planters.


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