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Sudan grass (Sorghum × drummondii)


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Common names 

Sudan grass, sudangrass, chicken corn, shattercane, sordan, sorghum sudangrass [English]; sorgho du Soudan, sorgho menu [French]; pasto Sudán, hierba del Sudán [Spanish]; Sudan otu [Azerbaijani]; Sudangras [German]; Sorgo sudańskie [Polish]; batag [Tagalog]; Սուդանի խոտ [Armenian]; Суданка [Bulgarian]; スーダングラス [Japanese]; Суданская трава [Russian]


Sorghum sudanense (Piper) Stapf, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench ssp. drummondii (Steud.) de Wet (FAO, 2009)

Related feed(s) 

Sudan grass (Sorghum × drummondii (Steud.) Millsp. & Chas) is an annual grass with slender culms (3-9 mm thick) reaching up to a height of 3 m. The light green leaves are long (4-15 cm), broad (8-15 mm) and very numerous. Inflorescences are panicles ending in short fragile racemes. Spikelets are paired, 6-7 mm long.


Sudan grass is native to Southern Egypt and Sudan. It was introduced into the USA and Russia in the early 1900s. It is now widespread in South America, Australia, South Africa and Central and Northern Europe (Duke, 1983). It is also cultivated in the Philippines and Thailand (Hacker, 1992). It grows well in regions where annual rainfall ranges from 600 to 900 mm and temperatures are between 7 and 27°C. It is tolerant of a large range of soils, from heavy clay to sandy soils. It can withstand slightly alkaline and saline soils. It is reported to be drought resistant. It does not withstand waterlogging and frost (Hacker, 1992).

Forage management 

Average yields are 80 t/ha (fresh), 12-15 t/ha (dry matter) and 40-45 t/ha (silage). It is possible to have 4 crops during a season (FAO, 2009; Duke, 1983).

Nutritional aspects
Potential constraints 

Sudan grass contains dhurrin, a cyanogenic glycoside that releases prussic acid after hydrolysis. The amount of dhurrin depends on growing conditions such as soil fertility and water availability. In order to prevent poisoning, it is recommended to wilt Sudan grass and to avoid adding too much fertilizer. Supplementing grazing cattle with sulphur blocks can improve weight gain and reduce prussic acid poisoning (FAO, 2009).


Sudan grass is used as a fodder, grazed or cut for fresh cut-and-carry, or for wilting, ensiling or drying. It is very palatable to cattle, sheep and goats (FAO, 2009). It is easy to dry and it makes good quality hay because of its slender culms.


When compared to other tropical Brazilian hays, Sudan grass hay had the highest crude protein and total digestible nutrients, and met the minimum standard for ruminant nutrition (Aguiar et al., 2006b).

In Japan, Sudan grass hay fed to dairy cattle had more crude protein, total digestible nutrients, starch digestibility and non-fiber carbohydrate digestibility than whole crop rice silage, which resulted in increased yields of fat-corrected milk and not-fat solids (Yamamoto et al., 2005). In Mexico, Sudan grass hay replaced up to 40% of the forage (alfalfa) in steam-flaked maize-based lactation diets without deleterious effect on milk yield and milk quality (Alvarez et al., 2005). In steers fed a steam-flaked maize-based diet, the recommended inclusion rate of Sudan grass hay was 8% (Calderon-Cortes et al., 1996) to 15%, which appeared to be optimal for an acceptable daily gain and dry matter intake (Alvarez et al., 2004).

In Japan, Sudan grass roll-baled silage could be used instead of maize silage at 25% of total dry matter intake in diets for lactating cow diets (Iwama et al., 1999).

In India, calves fed a mixture of 54% Sudan grass green forage and 46% ricebean (Vigna umbellata) had an average daily gain of 456 g/day (Singh et al., 2000).


In sheep, Sudan grass silage had an organic matter digestibility slightly lower than alfalfa hay, but Sudan grass hay had a higher OM digestibility than alfalfa hay (Olteanu et al., 2005). Sudan grass silage had digestibility values comparable to those of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) and teosinte (Zea spp.) (Pinto et al., 1999). In Turkey, it was suggested that Hungarian vetch (Vicia pannonica), added to Sudan grass silage, could enhance dry matter and crude protein degradability (Demirel et al., 2003).


In goats, Sudan grass hay was found to have an overall nutritional quality roughly similar to that of pearl millet, elephant grass and sorghum hays (Aguiar et al., 2006a).

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 20.8 3.3 15.6 29.3 30
Crude protein % DM 11.0 3.6 6.2 19.3 59
Crude fibre % DM 30.9 2.2 26.4 34.5 17
NDF % DM 66.4 7.3 49.3 70.0 6 *
ADF % DM 36.4 3.6 28.8 42.0 38 *
Lignin % DM 4.6 4.5 6.6 2 *
Ether extract % DM 2.7 0.6 1.6 3.7 10
Ash % DM 9.7 2.0 5.5 12.7 28
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.2 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 4.6 0.7 3.5 5.4 6
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.5 0.7 0.8 2.4 6
Potassium g/kg DM 19.6 1
Magnesium g/kg DM 1.1 1
Zinc mg/kg DM 21 1
Copper mg/kg DM 14 1
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 66.5 5.6 60.0 78.0 12 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 63.6 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.6 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.3 *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 68.2 6.1 59.3 78.7 12

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Aguiar et al., 2006; Alibes et al., 1990; CGIAR, 2009; Gomez Cabrera, 2009; Tisserand et al., 1989; Van Wyk et al., 1951; Vargas et al., 1965

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:43:12

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 91.8 2.8 87.8 95.5 6
Crude protein % DM 10.0 2.1 7.3 12.9 9
Crude fibre % DM 33.5 1.9 31.7 35.7 5
NDF % DM 68.7 2.4 64.7 69.7 4 *
ADF % DM 39.2 3.1 39.2 47.1 4 *
Lignin % DM 5.2 0.3 4.5 5.2 4 *
Ether extract % DM 1.8 0.2 1.6 2.0 3
Ash % DM 10.7 1.1 8.9 12.4 9
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.8 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 2.7 1
Phosphorus g/kg DM 3.3 1
Potassium g/kg DM 30.6 1
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.2 1
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 60.9 4.8 57.3 66.8 3 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 57.4 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.2 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.2 *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 51.8 9.5 45.1 62.6 3

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Aguiar et al., 2006; Aguiar et al., 2006; Alibes et al., 1990; Ledgerwood et al., 2009; Sarcicek et al., 2002; Van Wyk et al., 1951

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:43:12

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., 2015. Sudan grass (Sorghum × drummondii). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/375 Last updated on October 8, 2015, 18:03

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant) and Hélène Thiollet (AFZ)