The hidden diamond in South African agriculture has been revealed. Sorghum farming, which was mainly practised in the homelands, has started gaining momentum recently with experts calling on farmers to do proper research before farming with it.
Plant pathologist from the University of Free State, Dr Lisa Rothmann said what makes sorghum unique is its resilience to the weather patterns and its goodness in conservation.
Get the basics right
Rothmann said she specialises in grain sorghum which is the one that is used to make traditional beer Umqombothi and a porridge called mabele proving its versatility.
“Sorghum is one of the best crops that any farmer can invest in. However, I would advise that when you begin, start with a high-quality seed, because what you put in, is what you will get in return.
“Sorghum is resilient and able to penetrate and get water underneath. And in terms of usage, it can be used on different scales and for household usage,” she said.
Rothmann said sorghum was being grown in different parts of the country but it flourished in provinces like Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Free State. The North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape are, however, lagging in terms of volumes.
Tap into the knowledge of others
She said starting with sorghum farming should not be tough for anyone interested in taking it up but also warned that nothing can be taken for granted.
“Anyone who wants to start farming with sorghum should reach out to experts and agronomists for assistance, there is sorghum trust where information is available.
“So, there are chances of being able to get better market access. There is a market for sorghum in South Africa, it just hasn’t been maximised in the past,” she said.
A profitable commodity
Dimpho Xaba, a farmer and agronomist, said the climate conditions were favouring sorghum farming, especially in South Africa.
“Sorghum is a crop that is resilient against droughts, it has a strong root system and it can penetrate soil deeper.
“Sorghum makes a perfect candidate to look at for food security since it is similar to maize. So this is a crop that from production to processing, can do very well for farmers who want to venture into it,” he said.
Just like any other commodity, Xaba said a farmer who wants to farm with sorghum needed to target markets and do research to determine profitability.
“Farmers or anyone interested, make sure you test your soil at times. You might not even need fertiliser, but just make sure the soil is of good quality.
“Soil needs to be well prepared otherwise you’ll have a problem with weeds. Weeds compete with sorghum and grow fast,” he said.
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