2022 Garden
2022 Garden
2022 Garden Corn Sorghum Sunflowers Beans
In 2022 we planted 4 rows 25' long of Ba Ye Qi grain sorghum. Sorghum is another crop that is high in calories, drought tolerant, easy to store, and easy to process at home without complicated equipment. We also tried a short white type of sorghum which we planted inbetween the Hopi Blue Corn. Sorghum is planted shallow 2" or less and grows much like corn, in fact it is so similar to corn it is hard to tell the difference. If right next to corn the green has a slightly more silver cast.

The sorghum tolerated the high pH, close planting, and poor soil conditions much better than the corn and produced as much in 4 rows as the corn did in 12 rows. I have not tried planting them deep or growing without irrigation. I had never seen or grown sorghum before so it was interesting to see the stalks swell and split lengthwise and seed heads emerge. I late planted a short white sorghum variety under the corn which finished late. I pulled them out and put them in a bucket with wet soil to let them finish off indoors. For Ba Ye Qi sorghum which is a red sorghum wait until the the heads mostly brownish red before harvest. The green close to ripe one with swollen kernels shown in the picture below still needs 1-4 weeks more before harvest.


When near ripe birds will come and peck and damage a few kernels, looser type heads make it harder for them to perch. We also had wasps which would collect in the sorghum heads overnight but they did not make nests, sting, or affect quality and yield. These wasps do the same thing in corn tassels and I suspect they are preying on small harmful insects like aphids.

Ba Ye Qi Sorghum
Ba Ye Qi Sorghum
Ba Ye Qi Sorghum - almost mature
Ba Ye Qi Sorghum
Ba Ye Qiorghum
Ba Ye Qi Sorghum - emerging grain
Harvesting & Processing

Sorghum kernels are smaller than corn but easy to harvest. Let the sorghum dry on the stalk till brown or red and then cut the mature heads off. If needed dry a few more days. Cover a large tub with a 1/8" hardware cloth, tie it on firmly. Rub the heads pulling towards the stem till the outer kernels drop into the tub. After most of the outer kernels are gone press the head down on the hardware cloth and roll it till the inner kernels drop into the tub. Pour the kernels from one container to another in front of a fan to blow away the chaff and get clean sorghum kernels. Sorghum has a nutty taste and can be steamed like rice or ground into a flour to make various products. See our page on corn sorghum shortbread.

Sorghum Varieties and Plant Height

Mature height is a variable that should be considered when breeding and selecting the best drought tolerant varieties. I have 2 types of sorghum the larger of which Ba YE Qi produced very well in 2022. Sorghum is more drought tolerant than corn but does not tolerate deep planting and most reports say sorghum has a shallower root system than corn. I thought sorghum would need some irrigation and didn't plant any in 2023. Another article reported that both sorghum and corn roots can extend to 10 feet deep. In considering to replant the shorter type of sorghum there is a concern that shorter plants may also have shorter roots and be less drought tolerant. A research article which demonstrated that sorghum varieties with more stem mass, as biomass reserve, were more drought tolerant and continued grain fill better under adverse conditions compared to 3 x dwarf varieties shorter than 4 feet. Not what I expected but interesting.

Ba Ye Qi Sorghum - 2023
Ba Ye Qiorghum - 2023
Sorghum 2023 - no grain fill
Based on this new information I have decided to test Ba Ye Qi sorghum along with new types in 2024 without irrigation. I am more interested in grain sorghums because they can be easily stored for extended periods. For each plot I can plant 1 variety of sorghum and 1 variety of corn since they won't cross. The M6-1 should be interesting if it does prove to be a perennial and can survive from year to year. I wasn't able to find any heirloom types that were stay green or in fact anyone selling stay green sorghum online, only by contacting one of their suppliers. I was also unable to find Ethiopian sorghum.

New Sorghum Varieties for 2024

(Update Oct 8 2023) One stalk of sorghum sprouted in Field 2 with the corn and made a tassel but there were no filled kernels. So sorghum like corn can also grow without irrigation and further testing of planting methods, fertilizer application, and new varieties is needed.