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Aleppo grass (Sorghum halepense)


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Aleppo grass, Johnsongrass, Johnson grass [English]; herbe d'Alep, sorgho d'Alep [French]; cañota, hierba Johnson, sorgo de Alepo [Spanish]; sorgo-bravo, sorgo-de-alepo, maçambará, peripomonga [Portuguese]; السورغم الحلبي [Arabic]; 石 茅 [Chinese]; セイバンモロコシ [Japanese]; Гумай [Russian]; หญ้าพง, หญ้าพง, หญ้าปง [Thai]


Andropogon controversus Steud., Andropogon halepensis (L.) Brot., Andropogon halepensis var. anatherus Piper, Andropogon miliaceus Roxb., Andropogon miliformis Schult., Holcus exiguus Forssk., Holcus halepensis L., Holcus halepensis var. miliformis (Schult.) Hitchc., Holcus sorghum var. exiguus (Forssk.) Hitchc., Sorghum controversum (Steud.) Snowden, Sorghum miliaceum (Roxb.) Snowden, Sorghum miliaceum var. parvispicula Snowden

Related feed(s) 

Aleppo grass (Sorghum halepense (L.) Pers.) is a forage grass widespread throughout the subtropics and warm temperate regions, semi-arid to sub-humid. It is useful for hay and pasture.


Aleppo grass is a perennial erect grass, up to 50-290 cm tall, with vigorous persistent spreading rootstocks and scaly creeping rhizomes (Ecoport, 2010; Ecocrop, 2010). Its general appearance is similar to that of Sudan grass (Sorghum × drummondii) (Göhl, 1982). Culms and roots arise from the rhizome. Leaves are numerous and blade-shaped, less than 2-4 cm broad and 25-80 cm long (eFloras, 2010; Duke, 1983). Inflorescences are 10-50 cm long x 5-25 cm wide silky panicles, bearing pairs of sessile and pedicellate spikelets (4.5-5 mm long) (FAO, 2010).


Aleppo grass is a valuable forage used mostly for hay and pasture. The seeds are eaten by people in times of scarcity (Duke, 1983). Fresh Aleppo grass can be toxic to grazing animals due to its HCN or nitrate content (FAO, 2010) (see Potential constraints on the "Nutritional aspects" tab).


Sorghum halepense originated from the Mediterranean basin and Western Asia and is now widespread throughout the subtropics and warm temperate regions. It prefers hot climates (semi-arid and sub-humid) and is commonly found on river banks and ditches (FAO, 2010; USDA, 2010). Optimal growth conditions are 500-700 mm annual rainfall, 27°C-32°C day-temperatures and clay soils or wet sandy soils. It is tolerant of drought, but it tends to be more productive during the rainy season. Stems and leaves die back after the first frost, but the dead litter often covers the ground all winter (Hutchison, 2011).

Forage management 

Sorghum halepense yields between 1 and 20 t DM/ha/year depending on cultivation conditions (17-18 t/ha were obtained under irrigation in Texas) (FAO, 2010; Ecocrop, 2010). Addition of N, as well as planting with a companion legume, improves yields. It can be cut 2-3 times a season (Duke, 1983; Göhl, 1982). In the southern United States, Aleppo grass is sometimes cultivated in combination with forage legumes such as soybean, sweet clover (Melilotus sp.) and rough peas (Lathyrus hirsutus) to improve hay or pasture quality when grown together. Rough peas planted into frosted Aleppo grass can supply winter hay provided frosted Aleppo grass is not fed within 2 weeks after frost so that HCN has dissipated (UT Extension, 2008; Skerman et al., 1990).

Environmental impact 

Sorghum halepense can quickly take full possession of the land and is a good cover against wind and water erosion (FAO, 2010). However, it is considered as a very noxious weed, which competes strongly with other species, increases fire risk in summer, reduces soil fertility and acts as a host for crop pathogens. It is very difficult to eradicate because of its high seed yields and extensive rhizome development. Herbicide treatments are the most effective control method, but resistant strains have been reported. Alternative methods include crop rotation and attempting to prevent rhizome production by destroying or exhausting the rootstock, for example soil preparation, mowing and grazing (GISD, 2010).

Nutritional aspects
Potential constraints 

Sorghum halepense contains dhurrin, a cyanogenic glycoside that releases hydrogen cyanide after hydrolysis. Consuming Aleppo grass can be lethal to cattle, with signs of dyspnoea, anxiety, muscular tremors and incoordination appearing 15 minutes after the animals begin to graze, followed by death 3 hours later (Nobrega et al., 2006). The amount of dhurrin depends on growing conditions such as fertilizer application, frost and water availability. In order to prevent poisoning, grazing after frost or water stress should be avoided and it is recommended to dry the forage since HCN resulting from dhurrin hydrolysis is volatile (Munro, 2010).

Aleppo grass can be a nitrate accumulator and cause nitrate poisoning in cattle: severe cases lead to death 4 to 6 hours after ingestion in cattle and horses, or caused abortion 3 to 5 days after ingestion (Munro, 2010).


Aleppo grass is considered as an excellent grass for hay and pasture (Duke, 1983). It is very palatable and nutritious in the early growing stage and hay quality is the highest at boot stage (FAO, 2010; Göhl, 1982). Application of fertilizer has been shown to increase digestibility and protein content (Bennett, 1973). In vitro DM digestibility decreases over time: an experiment reported values decreasing from 63-66% to 47% between June and August (Rankins et al., 1995).

Dairy cattle

For dairy cows, Aleppo grass hay was found to be comparable to timothy hay and, when fertilizer was applied, comparable to alfalfa hay and superior to oat and soybean hays (Duke, 1983). The addition of 20% ground Aleppo grass hay in a total mixed ration for dairy cows gave satisfactory results (Acevedo Rosario et al., 1997). In India, Aleppo grass hay harvested at flowering stage fed ad libitum met the nutritional requirements of 27-28 month old heifers with a DM intake of 94 g/kg W0.75/day (Sanjeev Kumar et al., 1997).

Beef cattle

Aleppo grass can be grazed permanently by steers to support daily gains similar to other warm-season forages such as Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) and Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum) (Rankins et al., 1995).


The nutritive value of Aleppo grass silage was improved when supplemented with fermented fish wastes for adult rams (Rodriguez Carias et al., 2006). In growing lambs, Aleppo grass silage mixed with broiler litter, while being less digestible than maize silage, was found to be economically acceptable and a viable alternative for ensiling broiler litter (Rude et al., 1993).

Other species 


Aleppo grass seedlings fed to grasshoppers (Oxya fuscovittata (Marschall)) gave the highest results for nymphal survival, growth and duration, food consumption and utilization, adult life span, egg pod laying ability and hatchability when compared to rice, wheat and Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon). Farming insects such as grasshoppers may provide a low-cost feed for the poultry and fish industries (Ganguly et al., 2010).

Nutritional tables

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 22.1 5.0 15.9 27.7 4  
Crude protein % DM 10.1 2.9 5.1 16.1 12  
Crude fibre % DM 33.7 4.3 27.4 38.7 6  
NDF % DM 68.9 4.0 52.7 68.9 6 *
ADF % DM 39.4 2.6 31.5 39.4 6 *
Lignin % DM 5.2         *
Ether extract % DM 2.4 0.8 1.5 3.5 6  
Ash % DM 9.4 0.9 7.7 11.1 12  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.2         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 6.5       1  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 3.6       1  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 63.7         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 60.9         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.1         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.9         *

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


Aumont et al., 1991; Gill, 1970; Naik et al., 1998; Sen, 1938

Last updated on 06/01/2015 11:31:20

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 87.7 1
Crude protein % DM 6.6 1
Crude fibre % DM 34.6 1
NDF % DM 69.8 *
ADF % DM 40.4 *
Lignin % DM 5.5 *
Ether extract % DM 1.9 1
Ash % DM 5.9 1
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.6 *
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 58.9 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 55.4 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.3 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.4 *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 45.0 1

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


Emery et al., 1894

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:43:35

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Baumont R., 2016. Aleppo grass (Sorghum halepense). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/377 Last updated on March 17, 2016, 13:58