Sorghum Harvest Quality Report


The U.S. Grains Council 2016/2017 Sorghum Harvest Quality Report is designed to help international buyers of U.S. sorghum understand the quality of U.S. commodity sorghum as it enters the merchandising channel. This is the second annual measurement survey of the quality of the U.S. sorghum crop at harvest. Two years of results are currently laying the foundation for understanding how weather and growing conditions may impact the quality of U.S. sorghum as it comes out of the field.

This 2016/2017 Harvest Report is based on 254 commodity sorghum samples taken from defined areas within the nine top sorghum-producing states. Inbound, unblended samples were collected from local grain elevators to observe quality at the point of origin, and to provide representative information about the variability of the quality characteristics across the diverse geographic regions.

The sampling areas in the nine states are divided into two general groupings that are labeled Harvest Areas (HAs). These two HAs are identified by:

The Early Harvest Area, which consists of areas that typically harvest sorghum from the beginning of July through the end of September; and

The Late Harvest Area, which consists of areas that typically harvest sorghum from the beginning of September through the end of November or later.

The 2016 growing season in the Early Harvest Area was largely on or ahead of schedule, with abundant rains during the early-growth period (from planting until pollination). Excessive precipitation, particularly in the central part of Texas, affected yield and harvest. Pollination and reproductive periods had near-average temperatures, which promoted a normal crop development, and laid the foundation for high yields in some areas. The Late Harvest Area had a near-average start to the growing season, but planting in May was slightly delayed due to wet conditions and above-average temperatures. Pollination was characterized by wet moisture conditions and near-average temperatures, which created favorable conditions for floret fertility and grain formation. October witnessed warmer than average temperatures, which accelerated maturity, natural drying, and harvest.

Overall, this 2016/2017 Harvest Report indicates the 2016 sorghum crop entered the 2016/2017 market channel with average quality factor levels in good condition, and the majority met the standards for U.S. No. 1 grade sorghum. In addition, sorghum composition was in the recognized range of sorghum levels found in literature; no detectible levels of tannins were found; and typical values were found for kernel volume and true density. Kernel diameter and average 1000-kernel weight were both higher in 2016 than 2015, implying slightly larger kernels. The average kernel hardness index was slightly lower than 2015, implying potentially less energy needed for grinding this year’s crop compared to the 2015 crop.

The sorghum harvest samples are proportionately stratified according to Agricultural Statistical Districts (ASDs) across the key 2016 sorghum-producing states. This is to ensure a sound statistical sampling of the U.S. sorghum crop at the first stage of the market channel. Sample test results are reported at the U.S. Aggregate level and for the two HAs, providing a general perspective on the geographic variability of U.S. sorghum quality at harvest.

This report provides detailed information on each of the quality factors tested for the harvest samples. This includes averages and standard deviations for the aggregate of all harvest samples, and for the two HAs. The “Quality Results” section summarizes the following quality factors:

Grade Factors: test weight, broken kernels and foreign material (BNFM), foreign material, total damage, and heat damage


Chemical Composition: protein, starch, oil, and tannins

Physical Factors: kernel diameter, 1000-kernel weight (TKW), kernel volume, kernel true density, and kernel hardness index

Mycotoxins: aflatoxins and DON (Deoxynivalenol or Vomitoxin)

In addition, this Harvest Report includes brief descriptions of the U.S. crop and weather conditions; U.S. sorghum production, usage, and outlook; and detailed descriptions of survey, statistical, and testing analysis methods.

This second year of sorghum harvest quality data will lay the foundation for evaluating trends and the factors that impact sorghum quality. In addition, the cumulative measurement surveys will increase in value by enabling export buyers and other stakeholders to begin making year-to-year comparisons and assessing patterns in sorghum quality, based on growing, drying, handling, storage, and transport conditions.

The quality characteristics of the sorghum identified at harvest establish the foundation for the quality of the grain ultimately arriving at the export customers’ doors. However, as sorghum passes through the U.S. marketing system, it is mingled with sorghum from other locations; aggregated into trucks, barges, and railcars; and stored, loaded, and unloaded several times. Therefore, the quality and condition of the sorghum do change between the initial market entry and the export elevator. As always, the quality of an export cargo of sorghum is established by the contract between buyer and seller, and buyers are free to negotiate any quality factor that is particularly important to them.