Regeneration guidelines for sorghum

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The information on this page was extracted from:
Upadhyaya H.D., Gopal Reddy V. and Sastry D.V.S.S.R. 2008. Regeneration guidelines: sorghum.
In: Dulloo M.E., Thormann I., Jorge M.A. and Hanson J., editors. Crop specific regeneration guidelines [CD-ROM]. CGIAR System-wide Genetic Resource Programme, Rome, Italy. 9 pp.

Before reading the regeneration details for this crop, read the general introduction that gives general guidelines to follow by clicking here.


Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench.) belongs to the Poaceae family and is widely cultivated. It is considered to be one of the most important cereal crops in the world. There are about 30 Sorghum species; S. bicolor is cultivated for grain and forage while S. halepense (L.) Pers. (Johnson grass) and S. propinquum (Kunth) Hitchc. are cultivated only for forage. Wild relatives of sorghum include S. bicolor subsp. verticilliflorum (Steud.) de Wet ex Wiersema & J. Dahlb. (common wild sorghum; synonym: S. arundinaceum), Sorghum purpureosericeum (Hochst. ex A. Rich.) Asch. & Schweinf. and Sorghum versicolor (Andersson).
Sorghum is an important part of the diet for many of the world’s population. It is mainly consumed as flat bread or porridge. It is also used as a forage crop (ICRISAT 2008) and sweet sorghum is grown to produce sorghum syrup.
Sorghum is extremely drought-tolerant, making it an excellent choice for semi-arid and dry areas. Most cultivars are annuals although some are perennial. Sorghum stems may reach over 4 m height, with small grains of 3–4 mm diameter. It is usually grown in clumps. The inflorescence varies greatly in size and shape, ranging from loose drooping branches to a compact-oval shape (IBPGR and ICRISAT 1993).
Although it is mostly self-pollinating, protogyny may cause at least 5% natural cross-pollination (Purseglove 1972). The genetic integrity of sorghum accessions is thus maintained by selfing.

Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) plant.
(photo: ICRISAT)

Choice of environment and planting season

Climatic conditions

Sorghum can be divided into three groups, based on adaptation to temperature and daylight:

Regeneration should be planned according to the type of sorghum and the prevailing environment.
Preparation for regeneration

When to regenerate

Seed sample

Field selection and preparation

Sorghum can be grown on a wide range of soils but vertisols (black soils) are best for regeneration. Soil pH should be 5.5–8.5 and the plant will tolerate some salinity, alkalinity and poor drainage.

Method of regeneration

Planting layout, density and distance

Planting method


Sorghum panicles covered with paper bags prior to anthesis. (photo: ICRISAT)

Crop management

The genetic integrity of sorghum accessions is maintained by selfing when large numbers of accessions have to be regenerated simultaneously and isolation is not possible.



Weed management


Common pests and diseases

Contact plant health experts to identify pests and diseases and recommend appropriate control measures.

Monitoring accession identity

Comparisons with morphological data

Compare the following traits in characterization data:


Post-harvest management

Regeneration of wild sorghum

Grow wild species in an isolated area to avoid possible outcrossing with germplasm of related species or introduction of weeds. Grow weedy or invasive species, such as S. propinquum and S. halepense, in a glasshouse under careful management.

Documentation of information during regeneration

Collect the following information during regeneration:

References and further reading

Bioversity International, ICRISAT, United Sorghum Check-off Program. 2010. Key access and utilization descriptors for sorghum genetic resources. Bioversity International, Rome, Italy; International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, India; United Sorghum Check-off Program, USA. Available here.

IBPGR and ICRISAT. 1993. Descriptors for sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench.]. IBPGR, Rome, Italy; ICRISAT, Patancheru, India. Available here.

ICRISAT. Sorghum [online]. Available from: Date accessed: 26 May 2010.

Kameswara Rao N, Sastry DVSSR. 1998. Seed quality considerations in germplasm regeneration. In: Engels JMM, Ramanatha Rao R, editors. Regeneration of Seed Crops and their Wild Relatives. Proceedings of a Consultation of a Meeting, 4–7 December
1995. ICRISAT, Hyderabad, India. International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy. pp. 144–149. Available here (1.8 MB).

Purseglove JW. 1972. Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench. In: Tropical Crops. Monocotyledons. Longman Group Limited, London. pp. 261–287.

Rao NK, Bramel PJ. 2000. Manual of genebank operations and procedures. Technical Manual No. 6. ICRISAT, Patancheru, India.


These guidelines have been peer reviewed by Kameswara Rao, International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), Dubai, UAE.

The Genebanks

The 11 CGIAR genebanks currently conserve 730,000 of cereals and grain legumes, forage crops, tree species, root and tuber crops, bananas and crop wild relatives.