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sorghum, tall, coarse annual (Sorghum bicolor) of the family Poaceae (grass family), somewhat similar in appearance to corn (but having the grain in a panicle rather than an ear) and used for much the same purposes. Probably indigenous to Africa, it is one of the longest-cultivated plants of warm regions there and also in Asia—especially in India and China. Because of its extreme drought resistance (because of the unusually extensive branching root system) and its ability to withstand hotter climates than corn, sorghum has been introduced to the United States and other regions.

The innumerable varieties are generally classified as the sweet sorghums or sorgos, yielding sorghum syrups and molasses from the cane juice; the broomcorns, yielding a fiber from the inflorescence that is used for making brooms; the grass sorghums (e.g., Sudan grass), used for pasture and hay; and the grain sorghums, e.g., durra, feterita, kaffir or kaffir corn, kaoliang, milo or milo maize, and shallu. Some varieties are perennials. The pulverized grain is used for stock and poultry feeds and, in the Old World, for food. Sorghums also provide cover crops and green manures, grain substitutes for many industrial processes that employ corn, and fuel and weaving material from the stems.

In the United States, sorghum is grown throughout the Great Plains area and in Arizona and California; about half the crop is used for forage and silage and half for feed grains. Only a small amount is grown for syrup, most of which is consumed locally. Johnson grass (S. halapense), a perennial native to the Mediterranean that is similar to Sudan grass, is naturalized in the United States, especially in the Southwest. It is a noxious weed in cultivated fields but is also used as a forage crop.

Sorghum is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Cyperales, family Poaceae.


See bulletins of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Sorghum Durra), a species of annual plant of the genus Sorgo of the family Gramineae. It has a dense inflorescence, a panicle with short branchlets, which points upward or is somewhat bent as in white durra. Durra is cultivated in Africa, Arabia, Afghanistan, Japan, Mediterranean countries, the United States, and elsewhere. In the USSR it is grown in Middle Asia. Durra has great significance as a food. The kernels are made into groats and flour, while the green plants are used for animal feed and the dry stems for fuel.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Description language for coarse-grained concurrency on heterogeneous processors. "Durra: A Task-level Description Language", M.R. Barbacci et al, CMU/SEI-86-TR-3, CMU 1986.
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