Silo sorghum (since 2017)
Originating in Africa, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench (also called ‘durra’, ‘jowari’ or ‘milo’) is a crop that is still relatively unknown in Switzerland. Because of changing climatic conditions, however, the distinctive characteristics of this plant could make it part of the solution to impending challenges. Like maize, sorghum is a C4 plant and adapted to dry conditions. It has a high biomass potential, and is suitable both as animal feed and as food for humans. Since its grains contain no gluten, they can be eaten without restriction by people with coeliac condition.
In recent years, interest in sorghum as a feedstuff has depended primarily on summer weather conditions and on feed stocks. In many cases the farmers did not grown sorghum for several years, and the fluctuation in producers was comparatively high. The surface area used to grow sorghum in Switzerland has been relatively small.
Nevertheless, sorghum can definitely be a worthwhile alternative to maize in certain situations. For one thing, it is more drought-tolerant than maize; for another, it is never, or only rarely, infested by the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis), as well as being completely immune to the predations of the Western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera). It is also less often eaten by rooks after sowing, or damaged by boars, since the seeds are smaller, and the plant forms panicles instead of ears.
In Switzerland, much remains to be learned on the subject of sorghum cultivation for the production of silage. Little is known about the behaviour of different sorghum varieties under Swiss growing conditions. It is therefore important to determine which of the limited range of varieties identified as suitable are actually best suited for growing under Swiss cultivation conditions, and to collect information on yield potential and quality.
Testing of different varieties in terms of their agronomic and qualitative properties for use as silage.
Grain Sorghum (2009-2011)
Variety trials were carried out in various regions of Switzerland between 2009 and 2011 in order to increase the limited information on grain sorghum cultivation available from the country.
In small-plot trials under favourable environmental conditions, the earliest-maturing varieties achieved yields of up to 110 dt ha−1 with 16% moisture content on the day of harvest. Because of sorghum‘s greater need for warmth than maize, planting in cold-air zones or in basins as well as early sowing should be avoided. This will ensure a relatively quick juvenile development and good pollination. A piglet-feeding trial showed that Swiss-produced sorghum is of comparable quality to the imported grain, and meets feeding requirements. Preliminary infection trials with Fusarium species resulted in low infection rates and low deoxynivalenol (DON) levels. As evidenced by the successful cultivation of Sorghum bicolor in areas of Switzerland that are well suited for maize cultivation, changing climatic conditions make it essential for Swiss farmers to have access to more detailed information on different types of millet and sorghum grown in Switzerland.