Scientific name(s)
Plant description
Pasture type and use
Where it grows
Animal production
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Annual forage sorghum

Scientific name(s)

Sorghum spp. annual forage hybrids
Sorghum vulgare sweet sorghum
Sorghum spp. hybrid sweet sudan grass hybrids



Plant description

Plant: vigorously-growing, erect, annuals with branched tillers reaching 2-3 m in height

Stems: erect to 2-3 m

Leaves: 2.5-4.0 cm wide

Seedhead: large pyramidal panicles with secondary and tertiary branches.

Seeds: oval to round; size varies with cultivar between 30,000-75,000 seeds/kg

Pasture type and use

Various species and their hybrids are grown as forage for livestock production or for hay or silage conservation. Coarse-stemmed varieties are not suitable for round bale silage production. The various types of hybrids have different agronomic features and uses.

Sudan grass and Sudan x Sudan hybrids

Sorghum hybrid

Sweet sorghum hybrids

Sweet sorghum x Sudan grass hybrids

Sorghum x Sudan grass hybrids

BMR sorghum x sweet sorghum

Where it grows


Grown on stored subsoil water. Requires 500-800 mm rainfall or irrigation. Poor tolerance of flooding.


Performs best on heavy clay soils because of their high water holding capacity. When sown on lighter soils productivity will be reduced unless adequately fertilised and good seasonal rainfall occurs.


Sow when the soil temperature is above 16oC.


Companion species

Grasses: It is not recommended to sow with other grasses because of its quick growth and competitive nature.

Legumes: Lablab and cowpeas, though difficult to manage owing to different maturity times of the forage sorghum used and of the companion crops.

Sowing/planting rates as single species

Sorghum x Sudan hybrids and Sweet sorghum hybrids:

3-5 kg/ha under marginal dryland conditions
8-12 kg/ha under favourable dryland conditions
15-20 kg/ha under irrigation

Sudan grass types:

2-8 kg/ha under dryland conditions
10-20 kg/ha under irrigation

Sowing/planting rates in mixtures

Sorghum x Sudan hybrids and Sweet sorghum hybrids:

2-6 kg/ha under dryland conditions

Sudan grass types:

2-4 kg/ha under dryland conditions in favourable environments

Sowing time

When soil temperatures reaches 16oC


Not applicable


Should be grown on fertile soils and so would need additional nitrogen on soils of lower fertility. N can be applied where adequate soil moisture is available.


Maintenance fertliser

Produces large quantities of forage and extract significant quantities of nutrients. Application of fertiliser will depend on usage. Where forage is harvested for hay or silage, fertiliser budgets should be done based on soil test and nutrient extraction, and an application of fertiliser, particularly N and K should be made to maintain feed quality and productivity.


Tolerant of heavy grazing with coarse stems remaining unless grazed early. Commence grazing when plants have reached 1-1.2 m in height. Slashing after grazing will promote even regrowth. Should not be grazed below 15 cm if good regrowth is expected. Can expect 4 or more grazings under ideal conditions.

Seed production

Seed of the non hybrid sudan types can be harvested.

Ability to spread


Weed potential

Regenerating seedlings can be a problem in crop rotations

Major pests

None of signifacance

Major diseases

None of signifacance

Herbicide susceptibility

Atrazine may be used as a pre-emergence herbicide for grass and broadleaf weed control with care with some hybrids (see label recommendations) but not with sudan grass.

Animal production

Feeding value

Nutritive value depends greatly on soil fertility or the amount of fertiliser applied, and on grazing management where best results are achieved with a grazing height of 1-1.2 m. At this height, crude protein levels could be as high as 18% with energy levels of 8.8-9.5 MJ/kg DM.


Moderately palatable and digestible when young.  The sweet sorghum hybrids keep a higher free sugar content in the stem and are more suitable as stand-over feed into winter or the dry season.

Production potential

Generally, liveweight gains vary between 0.5 to 1.0 kg per head per day depending on plant height and leafiness.

Livestock disorders/toxicity

Leaves can be poisonous to grazing livestock due to prussic acid, especially in young stressed regrowth during a dry spell.
Having supplement blocks containing sulphur available will reduce the risk of prussic acid poisoning.
Nitrate poisoning can occur when grown on fertile soils containing high levels of nitrogen and when plants are stressed by dry conditions or frost.


Type Time to flower Cultivar Important characteristics Seed source/Information
sudan x sudan late Superdan Fine stems, many tillers Pacific Seeds
late PAC 8288 - Pacific Seeds
sorghum x sudan late Pacific BMR Pacific Seeds
ultra late Jumbo Very leafy Pacific Seeds
Sweet Jumbo Very high sugar content Pacific Seeds
BettaGraze Pioneer
Cow Pow Pioneer
Bully Beef
Cow Candy
Grazer - N2
BMR sorghum x sweet sorghum BMR Revolution
BMR Supreme
BMR Choice
Pacific BMR
Sweet sorghum x sweet sorghum Hunnigreen
Sweet sorghum x sudan Nectar
Sorghum x sorghum Graze n sile