MILLETS (/ˈmɪlɪts/) are a group of highly variable small-seeded
grasses , widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for
fodder and human food. Millets are important crops in the semiarid
tropics of Asia and Africa (especially in
Nigeria , and
Niger ), with 97% of millet production in developing countries . The
crop is favored due to its productivity and short growing season under
dry, high-temperature conditions.
Millets are indigenous to many parts of the world. The most widely
grown millet is pearl millet , which is an important crop in
parts of Africa.
Finger millet , proso millet , and foxtail millet
are also important crop species.
Millets have been important food staples in human history,
particularly in Asia and Africa. They have been in cultivation in East
Asia for the last 10,000 years.
* 1 Description
* 2.1 Major millets
* 2.2 Minor millets
* 3 History
* 4 Production
* 4.1 Alcoholic beverages
* 4.2 As a food source
* 4.3 Grazing millet
* 5 Nutrition
* 5.1 Comparison with other major staple foods
* 6 See also
* 7 Notes
* 8 References
* 9 External links
Consumption of the minor millets has been practiced since the
beginning of the ancient civilizations of the world. Generally, the
millets are small-grained, annual, warm-weather cereals belonging to
grass family. They are highly tolerant of extreme weather conditions
such as drought and are similarly nutritious among major cereals, such
as rice and wheat .
Varieties of millet grown in
Thinai (foxtail) millet Varagu (kodo) millet
Major millets are the most widely cultivated species.
Eragrostideae tribe :
* ELEUSINE CORACANA :
Finger millet (also known as ragi, nachani in
Marathi, mandua or kezhvaragu in Tamil in India).
Paniceae tribe :
* PANICUM MILIACEUM:
Proso millet (syn. : Common millet, broomcorn
millet, hog millet or white millet, "chena" or chin in Hindi,
"pani-varagu" in Tamil, "baragu" in Kannada).
* PENNISETUM GLAUCUM:
Pearl millet (also known as sajjalu in Andhra
Pradesh, sajje in Kannada and kambu as referred by other South Indian
states, "bajri" in Marathi and bajra in Hindi) - the most cultivated
* SETARIA ITALICA:
Foxtail millet - (also known as korralu in Andhra
Pradesh and thinai in Tamil Nadu and kang or rala in Maharashtra,
kakum in Hindi).
Andropogoneae tribe :
* SORGHUM BICOLOR:
Sorghum - usually not considered being a millet,
but sometimes known as Great millet, as well as jonna in Andhra
Pradesh, jolla in Kannada, vellai cholam in Tamil Nadu, "jwari" in
Marathi and jowar in Hindi.
Andropogoneae tribe :
* COIX spp.: Job\'s tears - of minor importance as a crop.
Eragrostideae tribe :
* ERAGROSTIS TEF:
Teff - often not considered to be a millet.
Paniceae tribe :
* DIGITARIA spp.:
White fonio ,
Black fonio ,
Raishan , Polish
millet - of minor importance as a crop.
* ECHINOCHLOA spp.: Japanese barnyard millet , Indian barnyard
millet (syn.: Sawa millet) (also known as Kodisama in Andhra Pradesh
and "Kuthirai vaali" in Tamil Nadu and Bhagar or Varai in
Maharashtra), Burgu millet , Common barnyard grass (or Cockspur
grass). Collectively, the members of this genus are called BARNYARD
GRASSES or BARNYARD MILLETS. Other common names to identify these
seeds include Jhangora, Samo seeds or Morio / Mario / Moraiaya seeds.
* PANICUM SUMATRENSE : Little millet (also known as Samalu in Telugu
and "Samai" in Tamil Nadu)
* PASPALUM SCROBICULATUM:
Kodo millet (also known as Varigalu in
Andhra Pradesh and "Varagu" in Tamil Nadu)
* UROCHLOA RAMOSA :
Browntop millet (also known as Korle in
* UROCHLOA spp. (also known as BRACHIARIA): Guinea millet
Foxtail Millet is known to have been the first domesticated millet.
Chinese legends attribute the domestication of millet to
the legendary Emperor of China. Similarly, millets have been
mentioned in some of the oldest extant
Yajurveda texts, identifying
foxtail millet (priyangava),
Barnyard millet (aanava) and black finger
millet (shyaamaka), indicating that millet consumption was very
common, pre-dating to 4500 BC, during the Indian Bronze Age.
Specialized archaeologists called palaeoethnobotanists , relying on
data such as the relative abundance of charred grains found in
archaeological sites, hypothesize that the cultivation of millets was
of greater prevalence in prehistory than rice , especially in
China and Korea. Millets also formed important parts of the
prehistoric diet in Indian, Chinese
Neolithic and Korean Mumun
societies. Broomcorn (Panicum miliaceum) and foxtail millet were
important crops beginning in the Early
China . For
example, some of the earliest evidence of millet cultivation in China
was found at Cishan (north). Cishan dates for common millet husk
phytoliths and biomolecular components have been identified around
8300–6700 BC in storage pits along with remains of pit-houses,
pottery, and stone tools related to millet cultivation. Evidence at
Cishan for foxtail millet dates back to around 6500 BC. A
4,000-year-old well-preserved bowl containing well-preserved noodles
made from foxtail millet and broomcorn millet was found at the Lajia
archaeological site in
Palaeoethnobotanists have found evidence of the cultivation of millet
Korean Peninsula dating to the Middle Jeulmun pottery period
(around 3500–2000 BC).
Millet continued to be an important element
in the intensive, multicropping agriculture of the
period (about 1500–300 BC) in Korea. Millets and their wild
ancestors, such as barnyard grass and panic grass , were also
Japan during the
Jōmon period some time after 4000 BC.
Asian varieties of millet made their way from
China to the Black Sea
Europe by 5000 BC. The cultivation of common millet as the
earliest dry crop in
East Asia has been attributed to its resistance
to drought, and this has been suggested to have aided its spread.
Pearl Millet was domesticated in the
Sahel region of West Africa,
where its wild ancestors are found. Evidence for the cultivation of
Pearl Millet in
Mali dates back to 2500 BC, and
Pearl Millet is found
in South Asia by 2300 BC
Finger Millet is originally native to the highlands of
East Africa ,
and was domesticated before the third millennium BC. It's cultivation
had spread to South
India by 1800 BC.
Research on millets is carried out by the International Crops
Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and ICAR-Indian Institute
of Millets Research in
Telangana , India, and by the USDA-ARS at
Tifton, Georgia , United States.
Worldwide millet production, 2000 Worldwide millet
Pearl millet is one of the two major crops in the semiarid,
impoverished, less fertile agriculture regions of Africa and southeast
Asia. Millets are not only adapted to poor, droughty, and infertile
soils, but they are also more reliable under these conditions than
most other grain crops. This has, in part, made millet production
popular, particularly in countries surrounding the
Sahara in western
Millets, however, do respond to high fertility and moisture. On a per
hectare basis, millet grain produced per hectare can be two to four
times higher with use of irrigation and soil supplements. Improved
breeds of millet improve their disease resistance and can
significantly enhance farm yield productivity. There has been
cooperation between poor countries to improve millet yields. For
example, 'Okashana 1', a variety developed in
India from a
natural-growing millet variety in
Burkina Faso , doubled yields. This
breed was selected for trials in
Zimbabwe . From there it was taken to
Namibia , where it was released in 1990 and enthusiastically adopted
by farmers. Okashana 1 became the most popular variety in Namibia, the
only non-Sahelian country where pearl millet – locally known as
mahangu – is the dominant food staple for consumers. 'Okashana 1'
was then introduced to
Chad . The breed has significantly enhanced
India is the world's largest producer of millet. In the 1970s, all of
the millet crops harvested in
India were used as a food staple. By the
2000s, the annual millet production had increased in India, yet per
capita consumption of millet had dropped by between 50% to 75% in
different regions of the country. As of 2005, most millet produced in
India is being used for alternative applications such as livestock
fodder and alcohol production. Indian organizations are discussing
ways to increase millet use as food to encourage more production;
however, they have found that some consumers now prefer the taste of
In 2010, the average yield of millet crops worldwide was 0.83 tonnes
per hectare. The most productive millet farms in the world were in
France , with a nationwide average yield of 3.3 tonnes per hectare in
TOP 10 MILLET PRODUCERS — 2013
PRODUCTION (TONNES )
No symbol = official figure, * = Unofficial figure, F = FAO estimate,
A = May include official, semiofficial or estimated data
Source: Food And Agricultural Organization of United Nations:
Economic And Social Department: The Statistical Division
Tongba , a millet-based alcoholic brew found in the far eastern
mountainous region of
Nepal and Sikkim,
Millets are traditionally important grains used in brewing millet
beer in some cultures, for instance by the
Tao people of Orchid Island
and the Amis or Atayal of
Taiwan . Various peoples in East Africa
brew a drink from millet or sorghum known as ajono, a traditional brew
of the Teso . The fermented millet is prepared in a large pot with hot
water and people share the drink by sipping it through long straws.
Millet is also the base ingredient for the distilled liquor rakshi in
Nepal and the indigenous alcoholic drink of the Sherpa ,
Tamang , Rai
Limbu people, tongba , in eastern Nepal. In Balkan countries,
Bulgaria , millet is used to prepare the
fermented drink boza .
AS A FOOD SOURCE
Awaokoshi, candied millet puffs, are a specialty of
Japan . This millet confection tradition began when it was presented
Sugawara no Michizane
Sugawara no Michizane when he stopped in Naniwa during the early
Heian period , about 1000 years ago.
Millets are major food sources in arid and semiarid regions of the
world, and feature in the traditional cuisine of many others. In
western India, sorghum (called jowar, jola, jonnalu, jwaarie, or
jondhahlaa in Gujarati , Kannada , Telugu , Hindi and Marathi
languages, respectively; mutthaari, kora, or pangapullu in Malayalam ;
or cholam in Tamil ) has been commonly used with millet flour (called
jowari in western India) for hundreds of years to make the local
staple, hand-rolled (that is, made without a rolling pin) flat bread
(rotla in Gujarati, bhakri in Marathi, or roti in other languages).
Another cereal grain popularly used in rural areas and by poor people
to consume as a staple in the form of roti. Other millets such as ragi
(finger millet) in
Karnataka , naachanie in
Maharashtra , or
kezhvaragu in Tamil, "ragulu" in Telugu, with the popular ragi rotti
Ragi mudde is a popular meal in Karnataka. Ragi, as it is
popularly known, is dark in color like rye, but rougher in texture.
Millet porridge is a traditional food in Russian , German , and
Chinese сuisines. In Russia, it is eaten sweet (with milk and sugar
added at the end of the cooking process) or savoury with meat or
vegetable stews. In China, it is eaten without milk or sugar,
frequently with beans, sweet potato , and/or various types of squash .
In Germany, it is also eaten sweet, boiled in water with apples added
during the boiling process and honey added during the cooling process.
Per capita consumption of millets as food varies in different parts
of the world with consumption being the highest in Western Africa. In
Sahel region, millet is estimated to account for about 35 percent
of total cereal food consumption in
Burkina Faso ,
Chad and the Gambia
Senegal , millets constitute roughly 40 percent of total
cereal food consumption per capita, while in
Niger and arid
is over 65 percent (see mahangu ). Other countries in Africa where
millets are a significant food source include
Millet is also an important food item for the population
living in the drier parts of many other countries, especially in
eastern and central Africa, and in the northern coastal countries of
western Africa. In developing countries outside Africa, millet has
local significance as a food in parts of some countries, such as China
North Korea .
The use of millets as food fell between the 1970s and the 2000s, both
in urban and rural areas, as developing countries such as
experienced rapid economic growth and witnessed a significant increase
in per capita consumption of other cereals.
People affected by gluten-related disorders , such as coeliac disease
, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy sufferers, who
need a gluten-free diet , can replace gluten -containing cereals in
their diets with millet. Nevertheless, while millet does not contain
gluten, its grains and flour may be contaminated with
It is a common ingredient in seeded bread.
Millets are also used as bird and animal feed.
In addition to being used for seed, millet is also used as a grazing
forage crop. Instead of letting the plant reach maturity it can be
grazed by stock and is commonly used for sheep and cattle.
Millet is a C4 plant which means it has good water-use efficiency and
utilizes high temperature and is therefore a summer crop. A C4 plant
uses a different enzyme in photosynthesis from C3 plants and this is
why it improves water efficiency.
Australia millet is used as a summer quality pasture,
utilizing warm temperatures and summer storms.
Millet is frost
sensitive and is sown after the frost period, once soil temperature
has stabilised at 14 °C or more. It is sown at a shallow depth.
Millet grows rapidly and can be grazed 5–7 weeks after sowing, when
it is 20–30 cm high. The highest feed value is from the young green
leaf and shoots. The plant can quickly come to head, so it must be
managed accordingly because as the plant matures the value and
palatability of feed reduces.
The Japanese millets (
Echinochloa esculenta ) are considered the best
for grazing and in particular Shirohie, a new variety of Japanese
millet, is the best suited variety for grazing. This is due to a
number of factors: it gives better regrowth and is later to mature
compared to other Japanese millets; it is cheap – cost of seed is
$2–$3 per kg and sowing rates are around 10 kg per hectare for