White Liboywa Sorghum
Sorghum bicolor subsp. bicolor
Origin: Shikonde, Kakamega, Kenya
Improvement status: Landrace
Seeds per packet: ~50
Germination tested 12/2018: 82%
EFN INTRODUCTION. The original 'Liboywa' sorghum came to EFN from the USDA and was supposed to have red seeds and dry stalks. It had red seeds when it was collected in western Kenya (Shikonde village, Kakamega county) in 1978, and in 2016 we planted a small sample of red 'Liboywa' seeds in New Jersey. A few of those first plants did indeed produce red seeds, but most of the others produced white seeds — and lots of them. Last year we planted some of the red seeds in one spot and the white seeds in another, and sure enough the red seeds produced only red offspring (with sweet juicy stalks), while the white seeds produced only white offspring (with dry stalks). Again, the white-seeded plants produced big, beautiful panicles ("heads") loaded with big, easily hand-threshed grain. With enough to finally taste, we found them to be delicious, mild and well-textured. They even pop like popcorn.
Given the provenance of these seeds, it's next to impossible to know if what we now call 'White Liboywa' actually originated in Kenya, or if it's the result of an accidental cross with another sorghum at the USDA. What's more, we have no idea if future generations will remain uniformly white-seeded and dry-stalked, or if some red ones with sweet stalks will crop up, or if some other combination of those traits appears (these seeds were also open-pollinated and not totally isolated from other sorghums in our experimental field, so crosses are possible but unlikely — though if you find an interesting rogue, we'd love to see photos and get some seeds back!). In any case, this is a wonderful sorghum, very productive and incredibly tall (to 12 ft). It requires a relatively long season (100-120 days), but is quite drought resistant, seems immune to most common sorghum pests and diseases, and thrives in heat. The seeds are also the biggest, whitest seeds we've seen on any sorghum. But if you happen to grow some red ones, don't be alarmed: those seeds taste great too (we would be selling them as well if the sparrows didn't eat so much!), and the juicy stalks are super sweet.
GROWING TIPS: At the beginning of nice warm weather (for us in South Jersey this is early May to early June), direct seed 1/4 inch deep in rows 2-3 feet apart. Thin to one plant every 12-18 inches. We recommend direct seeding, however, if you want to fool around with transplanting some plants, that can also work.