Suitable grain Sorghum varieties for Go-Farming-Project

Vol.4, Issue 11
By Maluti Mountain Brewery

It is now the beginning of the summer cropping season and different farmers are getting ready and geared up for planting time.  As this is happening, The Silo Newspaper found it also necessary to inform the prospective Go-Farming project farmers with the Maluti Mountain Breweries (MMB) as to what kind of seed varieties or planting material to invest on, this summer season for the purposes of marketing with MMB.  I would like to remind our readers that MMB is targeting the use of sorghum grain for beer making purposes.

Sorghum

The sorghum crop can be grown in areas where maize is a high-risk crop.  In these areas where the higher the drought tolerance of sorghum is so important, it is more likely to produce a crop in years with less than average rainfall.

Grain sorghum is the widely grown and adaptable grain in Lesotho.  Its coverage extends from the Northern Lowlands to the Southern Lowlands and Senqu river valley, not excluding the moist short seasoned foothills.  However sorghum cultivation is not popular with the cool highlands of Lesotho.  Hence there is also a range of varieties sold as seed in the markets of Lesotho, but not all of them are suitable for beer making.  And also quite many of such varieties are adaptable to our local conditions for cultivation.  A range of white grained and red seeded sorghum are also required for brewing purposes. But for the purposes of this paper I would like to talk about just few of them that are adoptable to Lesotho.

There are three varieties that I would like to recite on this article; the red seeded hybrid that is used for malting purposes whilst the white seed varieties are used for flour production brewing and consumption.

Macia

Macia is a white grained variety.  It is open pollinated variety that was developed by ICRISAT.  Since sorghum self-pollinates, its genetic purity is maintained from generation to generation.  However repeated use of farm saved seed is not recommended as the fungal diseases that are highly prevalent in Lesotho can lower the yield potential of the crop.  Macia produces a robust uniform crop with bold compact heads.  This Macia is highly suitable to machine harvesting and for many other mechanized field operation like chemical weed control through sprays.

It is a medium maturing variety with good disease tolerance.  It tolerates a range of diseases like smut and blight.  Since it is suited for planting in medium rainfall and wetter dry land/marginal regions, Macia can be suitably be planted in the Northern Lowlands of Lesotho including the foothill.


NS 5511

NS 5511 is a red seeded sorghum variety.  It is a hybrid variety that has good brewing qualities.  Due its high tannin content in the seed making, NS 5511 is bird damage resistant.  This NS 5511 is a short maturing variety and thus has a common disadvantage of lower yields as compared to other red varieties.

Due to the fact that this is a hybrid variety, NS5511 cannot by any means be planted from a farm saved seed.  Thus farmers are advised to purchase the fresh seed from the market.  It too has a uniform crop stand that matures at the same time.  NS5511 also allows convenience in field operations for all the activities including machine harvesting.

Thaha-Khube

Thaha-Khube is short seasoned red seeded variety of sorghum.  This is a local variety that is short seasoned.  It also has bold compact heads.  Thaha-Khube is a red seeded variety with high content of tannins, thus, the heads are resistant to bird damage. For this reason Thaha-khube is suitable for cultivation in most areas in Lesotho.  Thaha-Khube takes 90-100 days to maturity in Lesotho.

Conclusion

Since both the white grained and red seeded sorghum varieties are needed for brewing purposes, prospective farmers are advised to plant a portion of each so as to reduce market risk.  With this list of varieties, farmers can successfully plant their sorghum targeting MMB as their market.  For the next article, the question of variety requirements for maize shall be addressed.  It should be noted that the agronomic practices for cultivation of all these varieties is similar if not the same across all the agro-ecological zones of Lesotho.  And thus with this information in hand the farmer is bound to succed.

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