Moench 1794, conserved name not Sorgum Adanson 1763
Sorghum is a genus of plants in the grass family. Most species are native to Australia, with some extending to Africa, Asia, Mesoamerica, and certain islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
One species is grown for grain and many of which are used as fodder plants, either cultivated or as part of pasture. The plants are cultivated in warm climates worldwide and naturalized in many places. Sorghum is in the subfamily Panicoideae and the tribe Andropogoneae (the tribe of big bluestem and sugarcane).
One species, Sorghum bicolor, native to Africa with many cultivated forms now, is an important crop worldwide, used for food (as grain and in sorghum syrup or "sorghum molasses"), animal fodder, the production of alcoholic beverages, and biofuels. Most varieties are drought- and heat-tolerant, and are especially important in arid regions, where the grain is one of the staples for poor and rural people. These varieties form important components of pastures in many tropical regions. S. bicolor is an important food crop in Africa, Central America, and South Asia, and is the "fifth-most important cereal crop grown in the world".
Some species of sorghum can contain levels of hydrogen cyanide, hordenine, and nitrates lethal to grazing animals in the early stages of the plants' growth. When stressed by drought or heat, plants can also contain toxic levels of cyanide and/or nitrates at later stages in growth.
S. vulgare var. technicum is commonly called broomcorn. An annual grass like other sorghums, it grows 6 to 15 ft (1.8 to 4.6 m) tall, although dwarf varieties are only 3 to 7 ft (0.91 to 2.13 m) in height. The upper peduncle is normally 8 to 18 in (200 to 460 mm) long, topped by a branched inflorescence or panicle, from which the seed-bearing fibers originate. The fibers are usually 12 to 24 in (300 to 610 mm) long, but can be up to 36 in (910 mm) long; they are branched toward the tip where the flowers and seed grow. The seeds number about 30,000/lb (70,000/kg), with feed value similar to oats. A ton of the fibrous panicle makes 900 to 1200 brooms.
Plants selected for long-panicle branches probably originated in central Africa, but the variety was known to be used for broom-making in the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages. It was first described in Italy in the late 1500s.
Many species once considered part of Sorghum, but now considered better suited to other genera include: Andropogon, Arthraxon, Bothriochloa, Chrysopogon, Cymbopogon, Danthoniopsis, Dichanthium, Diectomis, Diheteropogon, Exotheca, Hyparrhenia, Hyperthelia, Monocymbium, Parahyparrhenia, Pentameris, Pseudosorghum, Schizachyrium, and Sorghastrum.
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