Sorghum X almum Parodi
Hybrid between Sorghum halepense x S. bicolor
Five-year sorghum, Almum, Sorghum, Columbus grass
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Cultivated for its high yields of palatable herbage for silage, hay, and
grazing. Better adapted to rotational grazing as it ts sensitive to trampling.
In Argentina, where it was first developed, it is used almost exclusively for
grazing. Good silage can be ensiled from material at least 911 weeks old and
not moistened by rain. Very palatable and nutritive when young, less so when
mature. HCN content about equal to that of johnsongrass, which it resembles
but is coarser and taller growing with large stems and leaves. Clark concluded
the species had some technological potential for pulping in the US, the fibers
running 0.81.8 mm long, 816 microns wide, the lumen ca 6 microns wide, the
cell wall 34 microns thick. Russians report a new food dye from sorghum, 1 kg
yielding 1740 g flavonoid dye (cyanidin, quercitrin, pelargonidin) (Olifson et
al, 1978). The dye was suggested useful in the food industry for
confectioner's cream products, caramels, and fruit starch jellies.
Columbus grass probably shares folk medicinal attributes of sorghum, reported
to be antiabortive, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, and used as a folk remedy
for abortion, epilepsy, flux, and stomachache (Duke and Wain, 1981).
DM content varied from 16% at 4 weeks old to 23.9% at 8 weeks. The CP content
varied from 7.811.3%, CF from 29.436.6%, ash 7.39.7%, EE 2.63.8, NFE
45.248.2% in Thai material 48 weeks old (Gohl, 1981). Grown near Brisbane,
Australia, 4 week old material, yielding 2,680 kg DM, contained on a dry weight
basis, 3.3% N and 7.3% ethanol extractable sugar, grading down at 9 weeks with
yields of 13 MT to 1.6% N and 5.0% ethanol extractable sugar (Catchpoole,
1972). Clark (1965), evaluating the species as a fiber source, notes that
there is a crude cellulose content of 3855%, a-cellulose of 2236%.
There is possibility of cyanide poisoning if grazed too young. Deficiencies of
P in the soil may amplify HCN production in young herbage (Bogdan, 1977), as
might excessive N-fertilization. The food dye (containing cyanidin,
quercitrin, and pelargonidin, fed to experimental animals for 6 months,
produced no morphological changes in liver, kidney, thyroid, and pancreatic
glands, and did not affect hepatic glycogen levels (Olifson et al, 1978).
Tall, robust perennial tetraploid, spreading by short stout rhizomes; culms
normally about 2 m tall, sometimes up to 4.5 m tall; leaves resembling those of
johnsongrass but wider, waxy, 30100 cm long, 54 cm broad; heads longer, lax,
more spreading with more branches at whorl than in johnsongrass; the panicle
310 cm wide; articulation of pedicelled spikelet breaking off at maturity with
the uppermost portion of the pedicel; seed slightly larger than in
johnsongrass, brown, ovate, 3.34 mm long, 22.3 mm broad (115,000170,000 kg).
Reported from the South American Center of Diversity, Columbus grass, or cvs
thereof, is reported to tolerate drought, high pH, laterite, poor soil, salt,
virus, and weeds. Though slightly drought- and salt-resistant, it is
susceptible to frost, and not resistant to grazing. Established plants do not
tolerate waterlogging for long or flooding. Columbus grass is predominantly
cross Pollinated with a certain degree of variability. It hybridizes easily
with Johnsongrass as well as diploid fodder and grain sorghums and with Sudan
grass, also a diploid, but such crosses occur naturally much less frequently.
Progenies of these crosses can be either tetraploids or triploids. The former
can contain male-sterile plants and be of value for breeding of S. almum
and other types of sorghum. The triploids are sterile and may have longer,
stronger rhizomes, more difficult to eradicate. Triploid seeds present an
undesirable admixture to S. almum seed. Sorghum almum has been
used in breeding grain and fodder sorghums for developing tetraploid forms or
for creating perennial types in annual fodder sorghums. When breeding for the
improvement of S. almum, apart from common general objectives, high
yields, high herbage quality, drought resistance, etc., a special objective can
be the uniformity of seed color distinctive from that of S. halepense
seed. Obtaining low-HCN cultivars is another important, feasible objective
(Bogdan, 1977). Parodi recognized var. almum with spikelets 5.57 mm
long and awn to 1 cm long and var. parvispiculum Parodi with spikelets
4.56 mm long, and with no or short awn, and smaller plants in general (Bogdan,
1977). (2n = 40; 8x.40.)
Native to Argentina, where first collected in 1936. Introduced and widely
cultivated in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, from all of which
sources, lots have been introduced to the United States. Major sources of seed
lots traced to Australia and New Zealand. It has been successful in Canada and
Ranging from Cool Temperate Steppe to Wet through Subtropical Very Dry to Dry
Forest Life Zones, Columbus grass is reported to tolerate annual precipitation
of 3.1 to 21.4 dm (mean of 13 cases = 10.4), annual temperature of 8.4 to
23.5°C (mean of 13 cases = 19.0), and pH of 5.0 to 8.2 (mean of 12 cases =
6.5). In Georgia it survived winter temperatures down to -15°C. Adapted to
subtropical and tropical summer-rainfall climate. Thrives on a wide variety of
soil types, grows equally well under a wide variety of ecological conditions,
particularly suited to areas of lower rainfall. Extremely drought resistant,
and does well in drier areas with as little as 20 cm rainfall annually.
Normally grows well in areas with 4563 cm annual rainfall. Good results
obtained in New South Wales in both dryland and irrigated conditions.
Seed production is good, and crop can be established easily and rapidly by
broadcasting seed or by sowing seed with grain drill at rate of 1214 kg/ha, or
planted in rows 90100 cm apart at rate of 57 kg/ha (as in South Africa). In
Argentina, broadcast seed rates of 25 kg/ha are recommended. It has been
successfully direct-seeded into the ashes of burned brigalow in Australia.
Grows rapidly under favorable moisture conditions. Roots are fairly easily
killed by plowing during dry period; therefore quite suitable for an arable
rotation. Fertilizer recommended: 2030 kg/ha P2O5 and 3040 kg/ha N. In
South Africa this species must be separated by at least 720 m from other
sorghums for seed production.
Stands normally persist for 56 years. As seed shatter very readily, they are
harvested by hand or by combine and threshed by ordinary type drum. For hay
and silage, top-growth is cut down before frost; regrowth from rhizomes begins
in spring. Plants produce shorter rhizomes that are not as aggressive and
extensive as those of johnsongrass. Easily eradicated when necessary by
Average seed yields are 2501000 kg/ha, but yields up to 1500 kg/ha are
reported (Bogdan, 1977). Forage yields are equal to or slightly greater than
those of johnsongrass (Reed, 1976). Widely grown in Argentina for grazing and
silage. Although it has been popular in Australia, sale of seed in Queensland
is forbidden due to danger of HCN poisoning; in other countries where the grass
is cultivated, it appears to be no more likely to cause poisoning than
sudangrass or other grain sorghums grown for fodder. Valued for its good seed
production, ease of establishment, drought and salt resistance and reasonably
high yields (Gohl, 1981).
According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity ranges from
4 to 55 MT/ha, with 48 reported in South Africa, 1114 in Australia, 15 in
Canada, 19 in Texas, and 55 in Pakistan. Energy output:input ratios may be
fairly similar to those by Bukantis (1980) for Sorghum bicolor, with
ratios ranging from ca 1 using draft animals in Nigeria to 1.5:1 for irrigated
sorghum in Texas, 3:1 for rainfed sorghum in Texas to 37:1 for manual labor in
Sudan. (Does this suggest that manual labor might make sense in energy-poor
third world countries?)
Qureshi and Hussain (1980) demonstrated that S. almum decreased the
growth of associated Pennisetum americanum and Setaria italica.
Root and rhizosphere extracts showed phytotoxicity to several species while
shoot extracts reduced germination, biomass and survival. The following fungi
have been reported on this sorghum: Cerebella andropogonis, Helminthosporium
turcicum, Puccinia purpurea, and Ramulispora sorghi. It is also
attacked by the bacteria Pseudomonas andropogonis and Xanthomonas
holsocala. Nematodes known to attack this sorghum include Meloidogyne
incognita acrita and M. javanica.
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Bogdan, A.V. 1977. Tropical pasture and fodder plants. Longman, London.
- Bukantis, R. 1980. Energy inputs in sorghum production. p. 103108. In:
Pimentel, D. (ed.), Handbook of energy utilization in agriculture. CRC Press,
Inc. Boca Raton, FL.
- Catchpoole, V.F. 1972. Laboratory ensilage of Sorghum alum cv. Crooble.
Trop. Grasslands 6(3):171176.
- Clark, T.F. 1965. Plant fibers in the paper industry. Econ. Bot.
- Duke, J.A. 1981b. The gene revolution. Paper 1. p. 89150. In: Office of
Technology Assessment, Background papers for innovative biological technologies
for lesser developed countries. USGPO. Washington.
- Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index
with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
- Gohl, B. 1981. Tropical feeds. Feed information summaries and nutritive values.
FAO Animal Production and Health Series 12. FAO, Rome.
- Olifson, L.E., Osadchaya, N.D., Chaikovskaya, E.V., and Semchenko, Y.P. 1978.
Food dye grain sorghum film and its toxicological characteristics. Voprosy
- Qureshi, H.A. and Hussain, F. 1980. Alleopathic potential of columbus grass
(Sorghum almum) (Piper) Parodi. Pakistan J. Sci. & Indus. Res.
- Reed, C.F. 1976. Information summaries on 1000 economic plants. Typescripts
submitted to the USDA.
Last update Friday, January 9, 1998 by aw