Broomcorn: The Frontiersman’s Cash Crop

This is a short blog about broomcorn. Broomcorn is a type of sorghum that is widely adapted and proved to be productive at about any latitude. There are a bunch of archived resources on broomcorn that can be found on the internet as well as printed publications. It is an interesting crop and one that was important up through the early 1900s. It was introduced in the Northeast and made it’s way across the U.S. basically following the progression of settlement. I first read about it in essays and books about the Dust Bowl. As a cash crop, it seemed to be a second favorite to wheat and was often planted if the wheat failed.

One of the best introductory but comprehensive articles on broomcorn is this 1953 journal article, authored by J.H. Martin, senior agronomist for USDA. It’s easy to read but of interest is seeing how the broomcorn business rose to prominence in certain geographies and then fell off as other crops were found to be more profitable. The last paragraph is particularly wonderful with a salute to an outstanding breeder, John B. Sieglinger. Generally speaking, breeders are unsung heroes in our food and fiber industries and it was treat to see a major section in the paper give credit to them.

Enjoy, and remember, everyone needs a broom to sweep their floors and witches need them to fly around on during the Halloween season!

I want you to do well. ~ph


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