Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Visit to a Sorghum Field

We travel MS Hwy 22 quite often, as it is a "short cut" from Vicksburg to Madison County where our daughter and her family live. I have done several photo shoots along Hwy 22, and, especially with the changing of the seasons, there is always something new and interesting to see.

For the past couple of weeks, we have noticed a huge field beside the road planted with a crop that resembles short corn, which my husband and I thought was maize.

The tops of the plants have recently turned a beautiful bright rust color, and the last time I passed by them, I felt the fields beckoning to me to return with my cameras.

But before I photographed it, I wanted to know what it was and researched photos of "maize" on Google Images (a wonderful research tool, by the way). I soon discovered that the fields on Hwy 22, are planted in Grain Sorghum (also known as Milo) — not maize.

I had heard of Sorghum, but didn't really know anything about it, so I googled it and found that it is one of the top cereal crops in the world, along with wheat, oats, corn, rice, and barley. It was originally cultivated in Egypt, but the largest producers of sorghum in the modern era are in Africa, although the crop has spread to southern Asia and the Americas as well.

Sorghum was probably brought to the United States by African slaves, who cultivated it in the Southern states. Some classic Southern recipes include sorghum, suggesting that it was integrated into American cuisine by the 19th century. The grain is also used around the world to brew beer.

An annual grass that is extremely drought tolerant, sorghum turns red and hard when ripe and is usually dried after harvesting for longevity, as the grains are stored whole.

Like other slightly exotic grain crops, sorghum is used primarily for animal feed in the United States, although cultivation of this grain is on the rise. The seeds, stalks, and leaves can all be fed to livestock or left in the field and used as a forage crop.

There is also a sweet sorghum, which is grown for the manufacture of syrup. I'm not sure which kind the sorghum growing along Hwy 22 is, but if I had to guess, I think it most likely would be the kind used for animal feed.

Now that I've probably told you way more than you wanted to know about sorghum, I would like to share the pictures I captured of the fields yesterday (you can click on the pictures to enlarge them, if you'd like to get a closer look).

The fields stretched almost as far as the eye can see, spanning acres of flat, delta lands ...

When I got out of my car and walked across the highway, I couldn't wait to get a closer look at those gorgeous rust-colored stalks swaying in the gentle breeze.

The plants stood around three feet tall and, although they were planted in rows, it was as if I was standing in a sea of rusty plants.

The individual stalks stood upright in spite of the heavy spiky seed pods on the tips.

Some of the stalks stood above the rest, like sentries on watch ...

One of the things I enjoy about photography is that I always seem to learn something new about the things and places I photograph. Whether it's a beautiful field of rusty plants on the side of a country road, or a deserted Mississippi "ghost town" rich with history ... every picture has a story behind it, and I love exploring and capturing the stories along with my pictures.

Next time, I will share a few pictures of lagniappe I came across after I left the sorghum field. I hope you will come back to see.


Deb said...

I always learn something new when I come to visit your blog...I love the fall colors in the plants...

racheld said...

You SURE you were on 22? That used to be the exact view from my front door---the milo waving like dark wheat. You could see the direction of the breeze swaying it as it passed through, and it rippled like the sheen of velvet.

Wow. Haven't seen that in a long time, and I love the way you showed every facet.

Richard Cottrell said...

we do not see this crop much any more here in Missouri. When I was very young I remember my father had some. When the stocks are mature, but still green, they are very sweet to chew on. Memories, thanks for them. Richard from, My Old Historic House.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

I remember this plant from childhood. Various people in the family grew it. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane.



Tonja said...

I was thinking about sorghum syrup...I remember my grandmother talking a bout it. How interesting this post was!

And the cat tails, too. My Mom loved cattails. She thought they were so neat.