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Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I, Grains
are fattened on it. Production is centered in the Great Plains, and extends over a vast area from the Gulf of Mexico to the Dakotas (see map, page 160).
But the crop is a more important feedstuff even than that. Only about two-thirds of America's sorghum plants are harvested for grains, and most of the rest also goes for animal feed. They, however, are turned into forage or silage or are left in the fields for grazing. This use of foliage rather than grain developed after sudangrass was introduced in about 1909. This grass sorghum has since been hybridized with grain sorghums to yield the "sorghum-sudan" hybrids. These crossbreeds are now widely used in the dry regions of the Plains states as well as in the Southeast, where other forages are sometimes hit hard by midsummer droughts and pests.
Although sorghum has advanced rapidly during the last 50 years, the fact that Americans developed it mainly as a livestock feed is in some ways unfortunate: the varieties typically had brown or red seed coats and are only peripherally relevant to food production. Moreover, in the public mind the crop became stigmatized as "animal food." Only now is there a nationwide glimmering of appreciation for sorghum as something people can eat. Today, American farmers are growing more and more of these food-grain sorghums, abandoning the brown and red types and switching to those with yellow or white seeds.17
Even people who work with the crop think the name "sorghum" has too many bad connotations in the American public's mind. Researcher Bruce Maunder has suggested the name "sungrain," on the basis that the white. cream, and yellow grains are "sunlike" and the grain is directly exposed to the sun's rays from pollination to harvest.