Sorghum is grown in several areas, such as the North Rift, Western province, and some parts of central Kenya. The crop is relatively drought-resistant, and it will require the best fertilizer for sorghum to thrive. Also, it is essential to note that it is the country’s fifth most important grain crop after wheat, maize, rice, and barley.
As a farmer, you must understand that apart from applying fertilizer, you must choose a suitable seed variety. Some of the most common seed varieties grown in Kenya are:
Seed varieties grown in Kenya
Ikinyaruka: This seed variety produces around 77-90 kg bags of sorghum. When you dry it, expect a dry matter of 200 kgs per acre. It can be used as fodder or food. Ikinyaruka matures in 160 days and grows to a height of 1.7 meters.
E6518: E6518 produces 33 90 kg bags of sorghum. It takes 230 days to mature and has a plant height of 3M. If dried, this variety will produce 200 kg of dry matter.
BJ28: The BJ28 sorghum variety matures in 110 days with a fodder production capacity of 156 bags. It has a medium height of 2.5 mm and can produce 33 kgs of dry matter.
BM30: This variety produces 66 90 kg bags per acre yield. It has a dry matter of 244 kg and matures in 210 days.
Another seed variety worth mentioning is the E1291, which matures in 160 days with a dry matter of 200kg. In addition, the variety has a yield potential of 66 90kg bags.
Sorghum does well in dry areas because it can roll up its leaves, reducing transpiration. Other ecological requirements that you need to know about are:
Soil: The plant thrives better in well-drained fertile soils. It is, however, essential to note that some seed varieties can also thrive in infertile soils.
Altitude: Sorghum should be planted in areas below 1,500m because they are prone to attacks if planted above 1500m.
For sorghum to thrive, it will require an annual rainfall of 400 – 650mm though it will still thrive in drier conditions. The optimal temperature is 15 – 35 degrees centigrade. Therefore, if planted in colder conditions, the maturity period will increase.
Best sorghum fertilizer
Before determining the type of sorghum fertilizer to add to the soil, you must have a soil test done. It is crucial because you can identify pathogens that can affect yields. You can only know the type of fertilizer to add by having a soil test. You will require several nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, zinc, sulfur, and copper.
Starter fertilizer or organic fertilizer is essential because it enhances the development of emerging seedlings. Starter fertilizer is applied in small quantities around the seeds to supply essential nutrients to boost production.
A good starter fertilizer should have nitrogen and phosphorus. Starter becomes especially useful when you have planted in cool soil conditions. One benefit of boosting early production is that the crops tend to mature early. There are certain factors that you need to consider when applying starter fertiliser. These factors are:
- The salt content in the soil
- Distance of the applied starter fertilizer to the seed
- Soil texture
Farmers should be cautious about how the starter fertilizer is applied. This is because chemicals such as ammonia thiosulfate and urea will kill the seed if they are directly in contact.
The amount of nitrogen to be applied will depend on factors such as the amount of rainfall in your area. If the rainfall in your area is not adequate, then the amount of nitrogen to be added per acre should be around 20 kilograms.
Other factors to consider before using nitrogen-based fertiliser are the amount of residue nitrogen in the soil and your yield goals.
Though nitrogen increases sorghum yield, it is essential to note that the plant becomes less responsive when the yield reaches 150 bushels per acre. When the sorghum plant is planted in sandy soils, the Farmer must devise a multiple application plan because nitrogen can easily leach out of the root zone due to heavy rains.
It is important to know that there are two crucial growth stages where nitrogen will be required in plenty. The first stage is approximately 30 days after the emergence of the plant and the second stage is one week before heading. When nitrogen is sufficient, the sorghum plant will experience good pollination, grain fill, and grain set.
Phosphorus and potassium
One main importance of phosphorus is that it provides energy for the fast development of sorghum. Potassium, on the other hand, is suitable for promoting stalk strength and stability. Potassium should also be added in shallow soils with reduced root depths.
Sulfur can be supplied to sorghum if the irrigated water contains sulfates. If the water has no sulfates, it should be added to the soil at 6kg per acre. The ideal nitrogen to sulfur ratio should be 15 – 1.