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Facts on Millet

The millets are a group of small-seeded species of cereal crops, widely grown around the world for food and fodder. They do not form a taxonomic group, but rather a functional or agronomic one, based on similar characteristics and uses.

The millets include species in several genera, mostly in the subfamily Panicoideae, of the grass family Poaceae. The most widely cultivated species in order of worldwide production are:

  • Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum)
  • Foxtail millet (Setaria italica)
  • Proso millet also known as common millet, broom corn millet, hog millet or white millet (Panicum miliaceum)
  • Finger millet (Eleusine coracana)

Minor millets include:

  • Barnyard millet (Echinochloa spp.)
  • Kodo millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum)
  • Little millet (Panicum sumatrense)
  • Guinea millet (Brachiaria deflexa = Urochloa deflexa)
  • Browntop millet (Urochloa ramosa = Brachiaria ramosa = Panicum ramosum)
  • Teff (Eragrostis tef) and fonio (Digitaria exilis) are also often called millets, as more rarely are sorghum (Sorghum spp.) and Job's Tears (Coix lacrima-jobi).

Major research on millets is carried out by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Andhra Pradesh, India, and by the USDA-ARS at Tifton, Georgia, USA.

Millet flour (called "Bajari" in Marathi) has been commonly used in Western India for hundreds of years to make the local staple flat bread (called "Bhakri"). Typically, "Bhakri" is made from "Jowar" (Sorghum) flour.

Crop history
Broomcorn (Panicum miliaceum) and Foxtail millet were important crops beginning in the Early Neolithic of China. For example, some of the earliest evidence of millet cultivation in China was found at Cishan (north) and Hemudu (south). Cishan dates to 7000-5000 B.C. and contained pit-houses, storage pits, pottery, agricultural stone tools, and carbonized Foxtail millet. A 4000 year old well-preserved bowl of noodles made from Foxtail millet and Broomcorn millet was found at the Lajia archaeological site in China.

Palaeoethnobotanists have found evidence of the cultivation of millet in the Korean Peninsula dating to the Middle Jeulmun pottery period (c. 3500-2000 B.C.). Millet continued to be important element in the multi-cropping intensive agriculture of the Mumun pottery period (c. 1500-300 B.C.) in Korea. Millets and their wild ancestors such as barnyard grass and panic grass were also cultivated in Japan during the Jomon period some time after 4000 B.C.

Alternative uses of millet
Millet sprays are often recommended as healthy treats to finicky pet birds, as they are easily eaten and (in the case of destructive-prone hookbills) easily broken. Celiac patients can replace certain cereal grains in their diets by consuming millets in various forms including breakfast cereals.

  Copyright © 2006 Andy's Market. This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Millet".


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