The Sorghum Plant

Sorghum grain is found on the panicle, commonly referred to as the head. The panicle consists of a central axis with whorls of main branches, each of which contains secondary and at times, tertiary branching. The length of the branches allows for a wide range of shapes and sizes in sorghum and for sorghums with very open panicles or sorghums with very compact panicles. The branches carry the racemes of the spikelets where the grain is found (see Figure 1). The panicle emerges at boot from the flag leaf sheath.

Fig. 3. The panicle of Sorghum bicolor subsp. bicolor which consists of the inflorescence and spikelets. 1. Part of panicle: a = internode of rachis; b = node with branches; c = branch with several racemes. 2. Raceme: a = node; b = internode; c = sessile spikelet; d = pedicel; e = pedicelled spikelet; f = terminal pedicelled spikelets; g = awn. 3. Upper glume: a = keel; b = incurved margin. 4. Lower glume: a = keel; b = keel wing; c = minute tooth terminating keel. 5 Lower lemma: a= nerves. 6. Upper lemma: a = nerves; b = awn. 7. Palea. 8. Lodicules. 9. Flower: a = ovary; b = stigma; c = anthers. 10. Grain: a = hilum. 11. Grain: a = embryon-mark; b = lateral lines. (Drawing by G. Atkinson. Reprinted, with permission, from J. D. Snowden, 1936, The Cultivated Races of sorghum, Adlard and Son, London. Copyright Bentham - Moxon Trust - Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, England.

Seeds begin developing shortly after flowering and reach physiological maturity when the black layer is formed between the germ and the endosperm, some 25-40 days after flowering. Seeds are normally harvested 10-20 days after black layer when moisture content is generally 15 percent or less. Black layer can be seen at the base of the grain where it attaches to the rachis branch and indicates that the grain is physiologically mature. Seeds are made up of three major components, the endosperm, embryo, and pericarp (Figure 4). All sorghums contain a testa, which separates the pericarp from the endosperm. If the testa is pigmented, sorghum will contain tannins, if not, the grain is free of tannins. None of the commercial U.S. grain sorghums have a pigmented testa and all are said to be free of tannins.

Fig. 4. Sorghum grain, showing the pericarp (cutin, epicarp, mesocarp, cross cells, tube cells, testa, pedicel, and stylar area (SA)), endosperm (aleurone layer, corneous and floury), and the germ (scutellum (S) and embryonic axis (EA). Adapted from L. W. Rooney and Miller, 1982).


Photo 1. Greenbug

Photo 2. Corn Leaf Aphid

Photo 3. Yellow Sugarcane Aphid*

Photo 4. Corn Earworm**

Photo 5. Fall Armyworm*

Photo 6. Sorghum Webworm*

Photo 7. Sorghum Midge*

*Used with permission of Dr. Pendelton, West Texas A&M University
**Used with permission of USDA-ARS