Sorghum Production To Help Reduce Micro-Nutrient Deficiencies


The deepening food and micro-nutrient deficiencies and insecurity in Zimbabwe has presented a number of challenges for the government and other development partners as many micro-nutrient deficiency related conditions like impaired vision, blindness, impaired physical and mental development; increased susceptibility to deaths due rising Non-Communicable Diseases, NCDs and infectious diseases that are now on the increase.

Zimbabwe has come up with a number of innovations to increase consumption of diverse and nutritious foods, including bio-fortified crops amongst programme households, particularly for women and children. These programmes are done through improving year round availability and access to a wide variety of safe and nutritious foods.

These innovations adopted a three-pronged approach is used: Diversified crop and livestock production; Nutrition Behaviour Change Communication; Promoting the production and consumption of biofortified crop varieties, specifically High Iron Beans, Vitamin A orange Maize, Sorghum and soon, Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato.

The Bio-fortification Programme seeks to achieve a numbers of objectives through:

  • Improving agricultural productivity
  • Increasing consumption of diverse and nutritious foods
  • Improving and diversifying incomes
  • Extension and Advisory Services
  • Rural Finance
  • Nutrition and Bio-fortification
  • Market Development
  • Policy and Knowledge Management

There is a strong need to strengthen farmer knowledge and skills through a pluralistic extension approach involving public, private and NGO service providers, research and tertiary institutions, and local communities.

Stakeholders and partners in food and micronutrient security should facilitate the development of relevant and inclusive financial products by financial institutions to serve smallholder farmers.

  • Promotes the production and consumption of nutritious foods
  • Link smallholder farmers to profitable commercial markets
  • Promotes business models that enable gender and social equity in markets.
  • Promotes entrepreneurship for growth in local economies.

There are several programmes promoting the production white Sorghum to ensure increased food security and domestic income security and below is more information on Sorghum production.

  • Grows best in warm areas and on a wide range of soils but does not do well on sandy soils.
  • Sorghum responds well to manure applications, and also responds well to a low application of basal fertilizer (100 to 300 kg/ha Compound D) followed with a top dressing of 100 to 200 kg/ha AN fertilizer. Basal fertilizer is broadcast and incorporated by discing before planting can commence. Sorghum also favours a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
  • Varieties in Zimbabwe
Variety Characteristics
SV-4 Semi dwarf open pollinated medium maturing variety that produces whole white bold grain.  Physiological maturity is within 113 to 127 days.

High yield potential of between 3.4 and 9.0 t/ha.

SV-3 A creamy white-grained sorghum open pollinated variety that is semi dwarf in height.

It produces a semi loose heads that mature in 112 to 124 days.

This variety has a high yield potential of between 3,8 and 8 t/ha.

SV-2 A semi dwarf open pollinated variety with characteristic pearl white grain.

This is so far the earliest maturing variety that matures in about 110 to 115 days

Yield ranges between 3 and 6 t/ha.

SV-1 Creamy white seeded open pollinated variety.

Physiological maturity is attained in about 115-125 days.

Yield ranges between 3 and 6 tons/ha

Macia An open-pollinated variety with creamy white seeds.1.2 to 1.5 m tall,

115 to 120 days to maturity.

DC-75 A hybrid red-seeded variety needs 120-125 days to maturity and resistant to bird attack

Normally used for brewing.

Yields from 3-6 tons/ha

NS55 A hybrid with brown seeds which requires 110-120 days to maturity.

Resistant to bird attack

Yields from 4-6 tons /ha



Brown seeded OPV with good brewing qualities. Early maturing variety. Stiff straw that averts lodging and resistant to bird attack. High yield potential of up to 6 t/ha under good management


  • Rotation
  • A break of two or three years between sorghum crops is recommended because sorghum is susceptible to nematodes. Rotate with broadleaf crops, like soyabean or groundnuts. Sorghum is sensitive to nematodes, especially on sandy soils, and therefore it must not be grown continuously on its own nor in a close rotation with maize.
  • Production practices
  • Spacing 75 X 5 cm,
  • Seed rate 5 – 7 kg seed/ha
  • Plant population 200 000 and 250 000 plants/ha,
  • Planting Time: End of November through to end of December
  • Planting
  • Mechanical planting using seed drill can be done but this will require high seed rates and will require more labour for thinning.
  • Thinning
  • Thinning should be done to establish an in- row spacing of 15-20 cm and this should be done before tilling begins and is normally done 4 weeks after emergence.
  • Pests
  • Aphids: These usually appear during head emergence and flowering.If necessary, spray with Dimethoate (Rogor) or Mercaptothion (Malathion).
  • Heliothis bollworm: These caterpillars may attack the heads after flowering. Control with Thiodan before 1st February or with synthetic pyrethroids from February onwards.
  • Stalk borer: This is the same pest as in maize. If necessary, use trichlorfon (Dipterex) or Endosulfan (Thiodan) granules applied in the funnels at 3 to 6 weeks after planting. Alternatively, spray into the funnels with Carbaryl.
  • Birds: These become a problem as the crop approaches maturity. Bird scaring is the only effective way of minimising bird damage, but community co-operation in planting dates may also help to spread the risk.
  • Harvest early to avoid bird damage and should engage bird scares when growing susceptible varieties.
  • Diseases
  • Leaf Blight: This is common in southern Africa, and is favoured by moderate air temperatures and wet conditions or heavy dews. Dry weather retards the disease. Rotation with non-susceptible crops (non-grasses) aids indestruction of infected residue thereby reducing the level of primary infection.
  • Weeds
  • Sorghum is very sensitive to weed competition especially during the early stages ofgrowth and establishment. Normally 2-3 hoe-weeding regimes are done even though the use of pre-emergence herbicides like artrazine can be recommended

By Francis Bingandadi Managing Editor AgriSeason


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