Sorghum.The many varieties of sorghum may be classed under three general headssaccharine sorghums, non-saccharine sorghums and broom-corns. The first group covers all those varieties which contain sufficient sugar to make their culture profitable to the sugar manufacturer. The second group covers all varieties that contain very little or no sugar. Sorghum is a cereal, cane-like grass, more slender than Indian corn, without ears and of glaucous color. The stalks have a hard, smooth shell with a juicy pulpy interior. There are many varieties of it grown throughout the warmer parts of the world, especially in Asia and Africa. It is used as a forage or grain product, or for making molasses or sirup. The chief grain yielding sorghums are Kafir corn, durra, milo maize, Egyptian rice corn and Jerusalem corn.
As cultivated in the early '50s, sorghum became a staple crop in Kansas on account of its drought resisting properties. The roots penetrate deep into the ground where the soil is of uniform moisture, the stalks grow close together on the land, the hard, close exterior of the canes and blades prevent rapid evaporation of the sap, which is so abundantly contained in the pulpy center. This combination of characteristics enables sorghum to withstand more drought than almost any of the other crops grown, and a total failure of the sorghum crop in Kansas is a rare occurrence even in very dry seasons. As compared with corn, wheat, etc., sorghum takes very little strength from and contains very little of the ingredients of the soil, yet the properties of the soil effect the quality of the sorghum. Mr. Cowgill, sorghum commissioner for the board of agriculture in 1884, says: "As a rule rather light sandy soil, pervaded with the compounds of phosphorous such as are derived from the decay of bones, for example, give the quickest growth, the sweetest, purest juice, for making sugar."
In Kansas sorghum is used for stock feeding and for making sugar and sirup. In the first years of cultivation only the saccharine variety was raised, so the term sorghum by years of usage is used to designate only the sugar-bearing variety, the non-saccharine varieties being called by specific names. While both kinds are used for stock foods, the non-saccharine species have achieved the more prominent distinction in that field. They may be divided into two groupsKafir corn and the durras. Kafir corn was first recognized in a statistical way by the board of agriculture in 1893, the area cultivated in that year being 46,911 acres. The whole sorghum area in 1872 was 4,249 acres. Kafir corn is sometimes known as African millet, the name being taken from a native tribe of South Africa. This corn has habits of growth and development similar to those of the common sweet sorghum. It is characterized by its long, erect, slender heads, compact and full of obovate seeds either red or white in color. It will grow very nearly within the same climatic conditions as Indian corn, but requires a slightly warmer climate for its best development. Kafir corn in Kansas is excelled in importance only by corn, wheat and alfalfa. As a stock food it is used whole, in meal or in combination with milk, alfalfa or soybeans.
The durras, viz: Milo maize, Jerusalem corn and rice corn, are characterized by their thick, compact, ovate heads, which frequently turn down, and their large flattened seeds. They were introduced into Kansas about the same time as Kafir corn, in growing, harvesting and feeding they require practically the same methods. Saccharine sorghum makes good forage and is widely used throughout the state. In 1890 there were 216,714 acres planted to sorghum, and from 56,393 acres were manufactured 3,431,100 gallons of sirup with a valuation of $1,461,125. The same year 160,321 acres were used for forage, having a valuation of $894,729. The statistics of sorghum for 1910 are as follows: Sorghum for sirup or sugar, 12,879 acres, 1,136,784 gallons, value, $511,072.32; sorghum for forage or grain, 512,621 acres, value, $4,167,947; Kafir corn, 69,808 acres, 1,799,534 tons, value, $8,011,283; milo maize, 100,700 acres, 202,073 tons, value, $1,033,239; Jerusalem corn, 6,918 acres, 17,843 tons, value, $83,975; Broom-corn, 111,308 acres, 39,561,123 pounds, value, $1,604,603.Pages 717-718 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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