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Sorghum: a valuable forage crop




  • By: Muhammad Amjad Ali

    Livestock is an important component of Pakistan’s population since 30-35 million rural people are involved in livestock raising. Livestock production is an integral and indispensable part of farming system in Pakistan and production of feed and fodder for the livestock is of utmost importance for the country. Sorghum is a significant nutritious fodder for livestock to produce more milk and meat.

    There are mainly two types of livestock production practices prevailing i.e. rural household where animals are closely integrated with the rural subsistence economy using grown fodder and crop residues for livestock feed, and large herds kept in rangelands. More than half of animal feed is coming from fodders and crop residues, one third from grazing of rangelands, wastelands, canal bank, road sides and other crops and their by products.

    Major fodder crops grown during winter include berseem, lucerne, alfalfa, oats and barley, while during summer these comprise of maize, sorghum, millet, cowpeas, jantur etc. These crops cover 16 to 19% of the total cropped area in the country. Total area under fodder crops in Pakistan is about 2.648 million hectares and average yield is about 22.7 tons per hectare.

    Sorghum is an important drought resistant “Kharif” fodder crop in Pakistan. In Pakistan it is grown on an area of 0.3902 million hectares with the production of 17.559 million tones and an average green fodder yield of 45 tones per hectare. It covers more than 50 percent of the requirement of the rain-fed region of the country. In rain-fed areas it is also stored in the field or shed to feed the livestock even in winter fodder scarcity period.

    Sorghum fodder is the basic feed for livestock and is especially valuable for winter feeding in the great plain regions. Properly cured sorghum fodder, with a little protein supplement, will maintain cattle in good condition throughout the winter with little or no grain supplement. Its green fodder contains 12% protein, 70% carbohydrates, minerals, nitrogen free extract and crude fat. Its feeding value has been reported as equal to that of corn and due to its palatability and succulent nature it is relished well by the animals.

    Kharif fodders are comparatively poor yielding with low nutritive value and no ratooning ability. In fact the deterioration of livestock is all due to lack of adequate fodder supply in summer both in terms of quantity as well as in quality. During the period of sorghum feed to livestock, it is important to make its continuous supply in order to reserve maize for the production of grains.

    Sorghum is produced successfully on all types of soils. It is more tolerant to drought, alkali or salts than most of cultivated crops. Two ploughings followed by plankings are enough for seed bed preparation. For good fodder production, the crop should be sown not later than end of April. For fodder purpose, seed rate of 30 Kg per acre should be broadcasted. The crop should be irrigated two to three times during the growth season.

    There are number of factors which contribute in the better fodder yield of sorghum. One of the most important factors is the nutrient management. In this regard optimum nutrient level has unique importance. It has been reported that Nitrogen significantly increased fodder yield in sorghum. The highest green fodder and dry matter yields were recorded in case of 50 kg N per acre.

    Mixed cropping especially with legumes can improve both forage quality and yield because legumes are good source of protein. Growing of sorghum and maize in mixture with cowpeas and soybeans in 1:1 and 2:1 row proportions produced more fresh weight, dry weight and crude protein than their sole planting. This will also result in enhanced fodder palatability and digestibility. The relative proportion of the component crops in mixture is an important factor determining yield, quality and production efficiency of a cereal-legume mixture. High proportion of legumes is undesirable since these normally have a low dry matter contents and are susceptible to lodging.

    Conclusively, sorghum is an important summer fodder crop. In droughty summer conditions it has the ability to survive and produce enough dry matter to meet the fodder needs of the country’s livestock. Therefore, farmers should be convinced for its production in the country and equipped with the proper production strategy to produce huge lots of fodder. It will result in boosted milk and meat production in the country.

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