Sorghums, Sudangrass, and Sorghum-Sudan Hybrids (2023)

byDan Undersander

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What are the different types of sorghum and sudangrasses?

Sorghums and sudangrasses are warm weather crops and will perform best in years when the growing season is characterized by higher than average temperatures. Cool conditions will severely limit productivity. Sorghums are diverse but generally fall into the following categories:

(Video) MS 9000™ | Sorghum Sudangrass

Grain Sorghum– also called milo, used for grain production in arid regions. This type grows 3 to 5 feet tall depending on variety and conditions. It is usually not considered for forage production because of low dry matter yield.

Forage Sorghums– includes sorgo, sweet sorghum, dual purpose (grain and forage) varieties, and hybrids. They usually grow 8 to 13 feet tall. Major use is for silage. Stems and leaves are similar in size to corn. Yields in central and southern Wisconsin have ranged from 3 tons/A in cool years to 11 tons/A dry matter in years with above average temperatures. Feeding value of sorghum silage is 80-90% that of comparable corn silage. Some long season and/or non-flowering types will need to be killed by frost to dry down enough for ensiling.

Sudangrass– grows from 4 to 7 feet tall, has leaves about 12 inch wide and stems about 14 inch in diameter. It can be harvested as pasture, green chop, hay, or silage. Yields have ranged from 3 to 5 tons/A dry matter. It can be ready for harvest as early as 45 days after planting. The smaller stems give it better drying characteristics than other sorghums for hay making. Sudangrass hybrids are available that are slightly larger and higher yielding.

Sorghum-sudangrass Hybrids– are intermediate in plant size between sorghum and sudangrass. Yield is generally less than that for forage sorghums but similar or slightly higher than sudangrass. It can be used for hay, haylage, green-chop, and pasture. Larger stems make drying for hay more difficult than for sudangrasses.

When and how should sorghums and sudangrasses be seeded?

Sorghums and sudangrasses should be seeded after the soil temperature has reached 60 to 65°F. This is normally 3 weeks after corn planting (May 20th in southern WI to June 1st in central WI). Sorghum can be established either by conventional or reduced tillage methods. Soil pH should be between 6 and 7.5 with 6.5 being considered optimum. Recommended seeding depth for all sorghums is 34 to 114 inches in heavy soils and up to 2 inches in sands. Seed at the rate of 12-15 lbs/A. Sorghums are normally seeded with a corn planter using 20 to 30-inch row spacing. Sudangrass is usually seeded with a grain drill at 20 to 30 lbs/A using 6 to 7-inch row spacing. Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids can be seeded either way at 20 to 30 lbs/A, depending on intended use (hay or silage).

What is the concern about prussic acid poisoning?

Sorghum and sudangrass plants contain a compound called dhurrin, which can break down to release prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide, HCN). Sudangrass has low levels of this compound and rarely kills animals. Sorghum has the highest levels and sorghum-sudangrasses are intermediate. There is also considerable varietal difference in prussic acid content for all types of sorghums.

Dhurrin content is highest in young plants. Therefore, the recommendation is not to graze or cut for green chop until the plant is 18 to 20 inches tall. This also applies to young regrowth in pastures. After a drought, new shoots may appear and the grazing cattle will switch from the taller forage to the new tender shoots. In addition, do not graze or green chop for 10 days after a killing frost.

High levels of nitrogen fertilizer or manure will increase the likelihood of prussic acid poisoning as well as nitrate poisoning. Very dark green plant growth often contains higher levels of prussic acid.

Most prussic acid is lost during the curing process. Therefore, hay and silage are seldom toxic even if the original forage was. Do not leave green chop in a wagon overnight and then feed. The heat that occurs will release prussic acid and increase likelihood of toxicity in the feed.

Individual animals vary in susceptibility to prussic acid poisoning. Cattle are more susceptible than sheep. Animals receiving grain with the sorghum forage are less likely to be affected.

When should sorghums and sudangrasses be harvested?

Silage– Forage sorghums should be harvested at the mid dough stage for ensiling. At this point, quality is still good and most types have dried down enough for ensiling. Non-heading types usually require a killing frost for the plant to get dry enough to ensile. This can be a problem in that lodging and leaf loss (therefore quality) may occur during the drying period after frost.

Hay– Highest yields are obtained when sudangrass and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids are harvested at the soft-dough stage (if a heading type). However, curing is difficult and quality is low when harvested this late. The general recommendation is to harvest either type for hay whenever forage is about 30 inches high. Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids are generally more difficult to make hay out of because of the larger stems. Crop should be cut six inches above the ground to encourage regrowth and two cuttings may be expected depending on yield

Green chop– Sudangrass and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids can be used to provide green chopped forage over summer. Begin chopping after the plant is 18 inches tall or cut at least 10 days after a killing frost to avoid prussic acid concerns. First cutting should be taken prior to heading.

Pasture– Sudangrass or sudangrass hybrids can be grazed any time after the plant has reached a height of 18 inches, which is usually 5 to 6 weeks after planting. For best results, it should be grazed rotationally with a sufficiently heavy stocking rate to remove forage down to a 6 to 8 inch height in a few days. The pasture will grow rapidly when the cattle are removed for more total tonnage. Additionally, if the grazing period is short, cattle will be less likely to be grazing regrowth that is high in prussic acid.

What is the feeding value of sorghums and sudangrasses?

Although these forages are generally similar to corn silage in feed value for beef cattle and sheep, there are some differences. Sudangrass grazed in its early vegetative stage contains as much available energy as corn silage and considerably more protein. However, mature sudangrasses and most sorghum and sudangrass silages are 15-20% lower in available energy than corn silage. This is because of the lower grain-to-forage ratios of the sorghums, and also because the seed coat is harder than corn and far more grain passes undigested through the animal. Crude protein levels are similar to corn silage, but they are rather variable and depend in part on the amount of nitrogen fertilization.

(Video) Cutting, Baling, and Wrapping Sudangrass | July 2019

There are brown midrib forage sorghums, sorghum- sudangrass hybrids and sudangrasses. We would recommend using brown midrib types of any of these forages. These types have not had the extent of yield reduction associated with brown midrib in corn silage. Standability is not an issue with the brown midrib sorghum- sudangrass hybrids or the brown midrib sudangrasses. Research at Nebraska showed 13% more milk production from brown midrib forage sorghums than standard forage sorghums. Additional research in Indiana has shown benefit of brown midrib sorghum-sudangrass hybrids in beef rations.

Calcium and phosphorus levels of forage sorghums and sudangrasses are somewhat higher than corn silage, and the calcium-phosphorus ratio is better. Sorghum and sudangrass contain relatively high levels of potassium. Sheep producers should be aware that these forages evidently accumulate copper more than corn and often show copper levels of more than 30 ppm. This is usually not a problem for cattle, but sheep grazing or being fed sorghum and sudangrass forage should have access to a mineral mixture containing molybdenum and no additional copper.

Focus onForage– Vol 5: No. 5
© University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 2003

Dan Undersander,Extension Forage Agronomist
University of Wisconsin– Madison
djunders@facstaff.wisc.edu

(Video) Harvesting Sorghum after 35 Days of Growth
(Video) Sorghum Sudan Grass Hybrid Harvest

FAQs

What is the difference between sorghum and sudangrass? ›

Sorghum and sudangrass plants contain a compound called dhurrin, which can break down to release prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide, HCN). Sudangrass has low levels of this compound and rarely kills animals. Sorghum has the highest levels and sorghum-sudangrasses are intermediate.

What is hybrid forage sorghum? ›

WS404 BMR Forage Sorghum is a high yielding, sterile sweet forage sorghum with reduced lignin content resulting in better digestibility, improved weight gains and higher milk production.

What is sorghum Sudan used for? ›

In addition to competing for light, water and nutrients, sorghum-Sudangrass can help suppress weeds by releasing allelopathic compounds. The seedlings, shoots, leaves and roots all secrete compounds that suppress many weeds.

What is another name for sudangrass? ›

Sorghum drummondii (Sudan grass)

Can cows eat sudangrass? ›

Sudangrass and sorghum are two of a group of plants that produce cyanide, which can poison livestock under certain conditions.

What is sudangrass used for? ›

Sudangrass is grown in the United States for pasture, grazing, green chop silage, hay, or seed. The crop is used as pasture for dairy and beef cows, sheep, and hogs, and as a range plant for poultry, especially turkey.

What is hybrid sorghum? ›

Sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] hybrid development involves development of parental lines based on a cytoplasmic male sterile system including the pollen parent (R-line) and seed parents (A- and B-lines).

Is sorghum toxic to cattle? ›

All sorghum family plants can cause prussic acid or cyanide poisoning in livestock. These plants contain a secondary compound called dhurrin, which is enzymatically converted to toxic prussic acid (also called hydrocyanic acid) in wilting forage.

How many types of sorghum are there? ›

Sorghum

When should you plant sorghum-sudangrass? ›

In early to mid-June, plant the sorghum-sudangrass. Drill at 35 to 40 lb per acre, as deep as 2 inches to reach moist soil. If surface moisture is adequate, broadcasting the seed is an option; however, increase the rate to 45 to 50 lb per acre.

What can I plant with sorghum-sudangrass? ›

Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids suppress such annual weeds as velvetleaf, large crabgrass, barnyardgrass (126, 305), green foxtail, smooth pigweed (190), common ragweed, redroot pigweed and purslane (316). They also suppressed pine (214) and redbud tree seedlings in nursery tests (154).

Is Sudan grass good for cows? ›

Forage Selection for Livestock

All Sudan/Sorghum forages are good choices for dairy and beef cattle feed. The choice of forage will be heavily dependent on seasonal needs and intended harvest management @ silage, pasture, green-chop, etc.

Is Johnson grass a sorghum? ›

In the United States, Johnson grass is listed as either a noxious or quarantined weed in 19 states. With Sorghum bicolor it is a parent of Sorghum × almum, a forage crop also considered a weed in places.
...
Johnson grass.
Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense)
Family:Poaceae
Subfamily:Panicoideae
Genus:Sorghum
Species:S. halepense
10 more rows

How fast does Sorghum Sudan grass grow? ›

Sorghum Sudangrass should be planted when soils reach 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be broadcast and covered with a rake or planted with a precision planter like our Hoss Garden Seeder. It grows fast and will reach maturity in 80 – 100 days.

Can sheep eat sudangrass? ›

BMR-sorghum x sudangrass can provide a safe pasture for grazing lambs for at least one grazing pass.

How do you prevent prussic acid poisoning in cattle? ›

Pasture. The risk of prussic acid poisoning can be reduced by feeding ground cereal grains to the animals before turning them out to graze. Carbohydrates in the grain tend to inhibit the emulsion from hydrolyzing dhurrin, which causes prussic acid formation.

What causes sorghum poisoning? ›

Sorghum is a cyanogenic plant and when its level exceeds 20 mg per 100 g (200 ppm, 200 mg/kg) of forage, liver enzymes gets exhausted and HCN starts accumulating in the animal body. When the cyanide level becomes 0.5-3 mg/Kg b. wt., clinical symptom of poisoning appears which may end up in death of the animal.

How many pounds is an acre of sudangrass? ›

PLANTING RATES: Sudangrass should be planted at a rate of 120 to 150 pounds of seed per acre. This high seeding rate produces finer-stemmed hay that is desirable for export to Japan.

Is Sudan grass poisonous? ›

All parts of the plant are poisonous especially if wilted or in regrowth. The cyanide blocks the action of the cellular enzyme cytochrome oxidase thus preventing hemoglobin from releasing oxygen to the tissues. Death results rapidly from anoxia. Sudan grass may also accumulate toxic levels of nitrates.

Is growing sorghum profitable? ›

At $5.60 per bushel, profit potential for the 2021 crop of $80 to well over $100 per acre exists with less financial risk than other row crops. "The way things look right now, sorghum is a very attractive choice for farmers," Hultman said, noting other row crops are profitable as well.

How long does it take to grow sudangrass? ›

Sudangrass is normally planted in late spring when the soil has become warm and exceeds 65º F. When soil temperatures at planting are from 50 to 60º F, sudangrass germination drops to 25-60%, and plants require 14 to 21 days to emerge.

How much is grain sorghum seed? ›

For example, sorghum seed typically costs $9-$18 per acre depending on seeding rate, while corn seed typically costs $55-$110 an acre depending on seeding rate and traits.

How do you plant sorghum? ›

Sorghum seed should be generally be planted 1.25 to 1.5 inches deep, depending on soil texture and moisture content. Deeper depth is fine for sandy soils, particularly if soil moisture is very dry. However, deep planting will hinder stand establishment when conditions are cool and wet.

Is sorghum a seed? ›

Sorghum seeds can be cooked as a grain and enjoyed in dishes that call for brown rice or barley. The seeds can be popped like popcorn. Sorghum flour is also used in breads and other baked dishes. Some varieties of sorghum were bred for their stalks, or canes, which produce a sugary liquid.

Can cows eat sorghum-Sudan? ›

When grazing sorghum-sudangrass, move animals so they leave 6 to 8 inches of stubble. However, they might waste 20 to 30 percent of the forage through grazing. Lastly, sorghums and sudangrasses are luxury consumers of potassium and shouldn't be used for dry cow forages.

Does sorghum grain have cyanide? ›

Cyanide (sometimes called prussic acid) and nitrate can be present in various amounts in grain and forage sorghums. In hot and dry conditions, such as drought, these plants become stressed, causing them to accumulate these toxins.

Does sorghum contain arsenic? ›

Sorghum, unlike rice, does not take up arsenic from the soil, and functionally, can do anything rice can do. The neutral taste, smooth texture, and light color of Nu Life sorghum flour makes it an excellent replacement for rice flour.

Which is the first sorghum hybrid? ›

Rao was awarded the C Subramaniam Gold Medal (1966) for the development of the first Sorghum Hybrid; SS Bhatnagar Prize for Biological Sciences (1967); Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award for Plant Breeding (1974); and VASWIK Award for Agricultural Sciences (1979).

Why is sorghum better than maize? ›

Sorghum has many uses as a food and a beverage, and has similar levels of macronutrients, vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre to other grains. It is generally slightly higher in protein than maize, but this protein can be less digestible. What is unique about sorghum is its health-promoting attributes.

Will sorghum Sudan grass reseed itself? ›

Description. Sorghum-sudangrass is a cross between sorghum and sudangrass. It is a finer stemmed warm season annual grass when compared to forage sorghum and will regrow after each harvest.

Is sorghum-sudangrass invasive? ›

sudangrass: Sorghum bicolor (Cyperales: Poaceae): Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States. Spikelet(s); Spikelets in ventral view. Similar to an FNW taxon. Fruit(s); Caryopses in dorsal view (left and middle) and ventral view (right).

Will Sudan grass grow in shade? ›

Light, Soil, and Nutrients

Grow sorghum-sudangrass in full sun, just as you would for other crops like corn.

Is sorghum sudangrass a perennial? ›

They are used primarily for forage, grazing, green chop, silage and hay. Sorghum Sudangrass is a cross between sorghum and sudangrass with a finer stem. It is a warm season annual grass and will regrow after each harvest.

Does sorghum grow in wet soil? ›

While it prefers warm temperatures, sorghum is also tolerant of wet soil conditions --- more so than other grain crops. Because of sorghum's temperature requirements, late planting after early June is not recommended.

Does sorghum regrow? ›

Forage sorghum usually does not regrow following harvest, unlike sorghum-sudangrass or sudangrass, so forage sorghum is best adapted to a single-cut harvest for silage.

How much protein does Sudan grass have? ›

a Chemical composition: 84.5% dry matter, 17.0% crude protein and 3,968 kcal/kg gross energy. b Dry matter basis. Because of the management system, cows re- ceived first growth forage during the first 10 days and second growth for the remaining 40 days.

Is sorghum good for dairy cows? ›

Sorghum grain can be an effective source of starch for dairy cattle. Starch is the primary energy source in dairy cow diets when feeding for high levels of milk production. Utilization of starch in the rumen is a primary concern for improving milk yield and efficiency of production.

Can you graze cattle on sorghum? ›

- Hold off on grazing plants until they reach a safe height; at least 18-20 inches for forage sorghum and 15-18 inches for sudangrass. This avoids the cyanide risk caused by high concentrations in new growth. - Turn cattle out when they have had access to a limit fed concentrate or hay.

Can cows eat Johnsongrass hay? ›

When the first frost hits, beef producers should be concerned for grazing cattle if the field contains Johnsongrass. Cattle may suffer from prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) poisoning caused by this grass, which by the way, is an excellent forage for cattle if properly managed.

Is Johnsongrass the same as crabgrass? ›

Crab grass tends to populate lawns, vegetable gardens and ornamental yard areas, as well as orchards, vineyards and agricultural zones. Johnson grass specializes in areas where the soil has been disturbed in preparation for planting, often of agricultural crops or vegetable gardens.

Is Sorghum halepense edible? ›

Edible Uses

Seed - raw or cooked. It can be used whole in a similar manner to rice or millet, or it can be ground into a flour and used as a cereal in making bread, cakes etc[46, 105].

Does sorghum Sudan grass need fertilizer? ›

Sudan is a very heavy feeder and good growth is dependent on nitrogen being available. Well fertilized sudangrass should be about the same deep green as well fertilized silage corn. If it is yellow due to nitrogen deficiency, yield is being sacrificed.

Is Sudan grass good for hay? ›

Sudangrass serves as an excellent pasture or hay crop, with its 3 to 5' height and slender (<1/2 inch), leafy stems. These characteristics make it well suited for pasture, dry hay, or silage. Forage sorghum was developed from grain sorghum, and this crop is suitable for silage, but not dry hay production.

How do you seed sorghum sudangrass? ›

When seeding using a grain drill, reduce seeding rates to 15 to 20 lb/A for sudangrass and 20 to 30 lb/A for sorghum- sudangrass. Seeding depth should be between 1⁄2 and 1 inch. Seeding depths greater than 1 inch should be avoided. Grazing should be initiated when these grasses are at least 20 inches tall.

What is a good pasture mix for sheep? ›

Major bunch grasses are orchard grass, timothy, tall fescue, Italian (annual) ryegrass, and perennial ryegrass. Orchardgrass is an excellent grass for either pasture or hay. It establishes quickly, is ready to graze early in the spring and recovers quickly from grazing.

What is the best forage for sheep? ›

The most satisfactory harvested forage for ewes is good quality alfalfa hay, although other high-quality legumes are almost as good. Alfalfa hay furnishes adequate protein, necessary vitamins and minerals. Other satisfactory harvested forages include legume-grass silage, corn silage and haylage (low-moisture silage).

What is the best hay for sheep? ›

Hay for Sheep

Immature grass hay or leafy alfalfa is usually the best feed for sheep. Mature sheep can get by on good-quality grass hay, but lambs do better with a legume—harvested while still growing so that it has finer stems.

What is Sudan hay? ›

Sudan Grass, Sorghum Sudanense, is a warm season annual grass that is adaptive to the dry, arid growing conditions in the southwestern United States during the spring and summer seasons.

Is Sudan grass good for cows? ›

Forage Selection for Livestock

All Sudan/Sorghum forages are good choices for dairy and beef cattle feed. The choice of forage will be heavily dependent on seasonal needs and intended harvest management @ silage, pasture, green-chop, etc.

How many pounds is an acre of sudangrass? ›

PLANTING RATES: Sudangrass should be planted at a rate of 120 to 150 pounds of seed per acre. This high seeding rate produces finer-stemmed hay that is desirable for export to Japan.

Is Sudan grass edible? ›

All parts of the plant are poisonous especially if wilted or in regrowth. The cyanide blocks the action of the cellular enzyme cytochrome oxidase thus preventing hemoglobin from releasing oxygen to the tissues. Death results rapidly from anoxia. Sudan grass may also accumulate toxic levels of nitrates.

Is sorghum toxic to cattle? ›

All sorghum family plants can cause prussic acid or cyanide poisoning in livestock. These plants contain a secondary compound called dhurrin, which is enzymatically converted to toxic prussic acid (also called hydrocyanic acid) in wilting forage.

Is sorghum hay good for cattle? ›

Sorghum grain can be utilized in the rations of beef cattle as a replacement for corn.” Sorghum, both grain and forage, is an important feedstuff for livestock.

Is Sudan grass good for hay? ›

Sudangrass serves as an excellent pasture or hay crop, with its 3 to 5' height and slender (<1/2 inch), leafy stems. These characteristics make it well suited for pasture, dry hay, or silage. Forage sorghum was developed from grain sorghum, and this crop is suitable for silage, but not dry hay production.

Can cattle eat sorghum sudangrass? ›

When grazing sorghum-sudangrass, move animals so they leave 6 to 8 inches of stubble. However, they might waste 20 to 30 percent of the forage through grazing. Lastly, sorghums and sudangrasses are luxury consumers of potassium and shouldn't be used for dry cow forages.

How fast does Sorghum Sudan grass grow? ›

Sorghum Sudangrass should be planted when soils reach 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be broadcast and covered with a rake or planted with a precision planter like our Hoss Garden Seeder. It grows fast and will reach maturity in 80 – 100 days.

What causes sorghum poisoning? ›

Sorghum is a cyanogenic plant and when its level exceeds 20 mg per 100 g (200 ppm, 200 mg/kg) of forage, liver enzymes gets exhausted and HCN starts accumulating in the animal body. When the cyanide level becomes 0.5-3 mg/Kg b. wt., clinical symptom of poisoning appears which may end up in death of the animal.

When should you cut sorghum-sudangrass? ›

Sudangrass and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids can be used to provide green chopped forage over summer. Begin chopping after the plant is 18 inches tall or cut at least 10 days after a killing frost to avoid prussic acid concerns. First cutting should be taken prior to heading.

Will sorghum Sudan grass reseed itself? ›

Description. Sorghum-sudangrass is a cross between sorghum and sudangrass. It is a finer stemmed warm season annual grass when compared to forage sorghum and will regrow after each harvest.

How thick do you plant Sudan grass? ›

When seeding using a grain drill, reduce seeding rates to 15 to 20 lb/A for sudangrass and 20 to 30 lb/A for sorghum- sudangrass. Seeding depth should be between 1⁄2 and 1 inch. Seeding depths greater than 1 inch should be avoided. Grazing should be initiated when these grasses are at least 20 inches tall.

What is sorghum poisoning? ›

Sorghum poisoning is characterized by caudal ataxia or incoordination, cystitis, urinary incontinence (which predisposes both male and female horses to cystitis), and alopecia on the hind legs due to urine scalding. The loss of urinary bladder function is related to axonal degeneration of spinal cord neurons.

Is growing sorghum profitable? ›

At $5.60 per bushel, profit potential for the 2021 crop of $80 to well over $100 per acre exists with less financial risk than other row crops. "The way things look right now, sorghum is a very attractive choice for farmers," Hultman said, noting other row crops are profitable as well.

Can you mow Sudan grass? ›

Mow sudangrass when stalks are 3 to 4 feet tall, leaving at least 6 inches of stubble. This encourages the production of side shoots and deeper root growth while continuing to suppress weeds. Mowing at this stage also prevents the sudangrass from getting too woody.

Videos

1. Harvesting Sorghum-Sudangrass
(Herrick Kimball)
2. Grazing sorghum sudangrass, treating more pinkeye, & picking up freezer beef from the processor!
(Hurricane Creek Farms)
3. Grazing Brown Mid-Rib Sorghum x Sudangrass Hybrid
(Joe Lowe)
4. hybrid sorghum sudan grass for animals|
(iSMART Agri)
5. Millborn's Cow Conditioner: Sorghum Sudangrass
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6. Sucrosse 9R PS Hybrid Sorghum Sudangrass
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