White Liboywa Sorghum

White Liboywa Sorghum

Sorghum bicolor

Grown by: Experimental Farm Network in Elmer, NJ

  • $4.00

The original 'Liboywa' sorghum came to Experimental Farm Network from the USDA and was supposed to have red seeds and dry stalks. It had red seeds when it was collected in western Kenya (Shikonde village, Kakamega county) in 1978, and in 2016 we planted a small sample of red 'Liboywa' seeds in New Jersey. A few of those first plants did indeed produce red seeds, but most of the others produced white seeds — and lots of them. Last year we planted some of the red seeds in one spot and the white seeds in another, and sure enough the red seeds produced only red offspring (with sweet juicy stalks), while the white seeds produced only white offspring (with dry stalks). Again, the white-seeded plants produced big, beautiful panicles ("heads") loaded with big, easily hand-threshed grain. With enough to finally taste, we found them to be delicious, mild and well-textured. They even pop like popcorn.

Given the provenance of these seeds, it's next to impossible to know if what we now call 'White Liboywa' actually originated in Kenya, or if it's the result of an accidental cross with another sorghum at the USDA. What's more, we have no idea if future generations will remain uniformly white-seeded and dry-stalked, or if some red ones with sweet stalks will crop up, or if some other combination of those traits will appear (these seeds were also open-pollinated and not totally isolated from other sorghums in our experimental field, so crosses are possible but unlikely — though if you find an interesting rogue, we'd love to see photos and get some seeds back!). In any case, this is a wonderful sorghum, very productive and incredibly tall (to 12 ft). It requires a relatively long season (100-120 days), but is quite drought resistant, seems immune to most common sorghum pests and diseases, and thrives in heat. The seeds are also the biggest, whitest seeds we've seen on any sorghum. But if you happen to grow some red ones, don't be alarmed: those seeds taste great too (we would be selling them as well if the sparrows didn't eat so much!), and the juicy stalks are super sweet.

Days to maturity: 100-120

Seeds per pack: 65

Planting / harvesting notes

Direct seed 1/4" into well-drained soil once the danger of frost has passed. Thin to 8"-12" in row. Needs full sun and thrives in warm climates. Harvest for grain when the seeds have developed past their milky stage and when they have hard, glossy seed coats. Cut below the seed cluster keeping about a couple inches of stalk. Finish drying in a warm, well-ventilated place for a week or longer. Thresh over hardware cloth or by hand, and winnow the remaining chaff. 

Seed keeping notes

While sorghum is generally self pollinating, people concerned with unwanted cross pollination should isolate various varieties of S. bicolor (including Johnson grass) by 990 feet. Alternatively, you can plant your different sorghums closer together and bag the plants' tassels when they emerge with weather resistant corn tassel bags, or with paper bags in drier climates. Allowing the seed heads to reach the hard dough stage is best when harvesting for seed. See seed harvest method in planting/ harvesting notes above.

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