History of Sorgo

Sorgo, as we like to call it, refers to sweet sorghum, a grass-like plant from the Sorghum crop family. 

Sorghum has a long and rich history. It is an ancient cereal crop that has been used worldwide for thousands of years, with evidence suggesting it had been cultivated in Southern Egypt over eight thousand years ago.

It is still an important crop to many African countries, as well as numerous countries around the world, including India and China.


As a crop, Sorghum made its way to the United States in the early 17th century but became more widespread in the 1850s. Sorghum was loved by Americans as it was easy to grow, affordable, versatile, and tasty. Sweet sorghum, particularly sorghum syrup, soon became an American classic.

Sorgo started growing in popularity at a time when sugarcane was a staple for many people around the world. In the mid-1800s, it was used in cooking, fermenting and preserving foods, and for medicinal purposes. Though, the production of sugarcane relied almost exclusively on slave labor. 

Old illustration of women crushing sorghum in Unyamwezi village, Tanzania. Photo via Shutterstock by Marzolino.

Old illustration of sorghum threshers in a tribe of Unyamwezi region, Tanzania. Photo via Shutterstock by Marzolino.

 Photo from Library of Congress via Flickr by Rob Van den Berg.

“Syrupping off” days 1940. Photo from Library of Congress via Flickr by Rob Van den Berg.

A man feeds the sorghum mill while juice flows into the container. Photo via Shutterstock by fasthorses.

Pressing of Sorghum stalk. Photo via Pixabay by astroguy52.

Making of Sorghum into Syrup. Photo via Shutterstock by Jim Valle.

 Photo via Shutterstock by fasthorses.

In the years leading up to the civil war, abolitionists in the north started boycotting sugarcane as a form of protest against slavery. They thought that by destroying the economy of sugarcane, they could erode the institution of slavery. Abolitionists searched out an alternative and found a solution in sweet sorghum. 

Following the end of the war, more and more farmers started growing sorgo and experimented with different ways to use it. It was used in beer, in cooking, and to make a distinctly American sweetener. 

Today, the United States is the largest producer of sorghum in the world.

The sorghum family of crops includes four varieties: grain, forage, biomass, and sweet. It is the grain and sweet varieties that are mainly used to produce food and beverages. 

Grain sorghum comes in many shapes and sizes, such as whole grain, flaked, bran, and pearled grain.

Unlike the sorghum grain crop, which is harvested for its grain, Sweet Sorghum is harvested for its stalks. 

Learn More About Sorgo

Conduct a soil test and identify that the soil sample is for a field growing sweet sorghum and not grain sorghum.

Many who are not in the agriculture industry have either never heard of sorghum or are unsure as to what it is. Nevertheless, it holds an important role in the lives of millions of people throughout the world, no-doubt including yours, so we encourage you to learn some sorghum facts.

Processing sweet sorghum is the most critical aspect of making a high-quality syrup. The yield and quality of sorghum syrup is influenced by the equipment and process used in manufacturing and by the syrup maker’s knowledge and skill. 

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