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Millet is the collective name of a group of genera of the Grass family (Gramineae/Paniceae) widely grown around the world for food or animal feed.

Pearl millet (Pennesetum glaucum (L.) R.Br, syn. P. americanum (L.) Leeke is the most widely grown of the group.

Pearl millet has been grown in India and Africa since prehistoric times. It is now generally accepted that pearl millet originated in Africa and that it was introduced into India from there.

Millet is well adapted to low rainfall and high temperature, and thus can be grown in areas where other cereal crops, such as wheat or maize, would not survive.

Today pearl millet is grown on 26 million hectares worldwide.

Other names for Pearl millet :

  • In the USA: cattail millet, Pencillaria
  • In India: bajra, bajri, sajje, cumbu
  • In Africa: sanio, gero, babala, nyoloti, bullrush millet, dukkin, souma
  • In Europe: candle millet, dark millet


Millet grain is the basic staple for farm households in the poorest countries and amongst the poorest people. Millet straw is a valued building material, fuel and livestock feed.

Millet is consumed in the form of fermented or non-fermented breads, porridges, boiled or steamed foods, and (alcoholic) beverages. In the Sahel and elsewhere in northern Africa, pearl millet is an important ingredient of couscous.

In the USA, Australia, and Europe, millets are also grown to feed cattle and birds.

Other Millets:

The millets include five genera of the Panaceae family (Panicum, Setaria, Echinochloa, Pennesetum and Eleusine). The most important cultivated species are :

  • Proso (Panicum miliaceum)
  • Foxtail millet (Setaria italica)
  • Japanese barnyard millet (Echinochloa colana var frumentacea)
  • Finger millet (Eleusine coracana)
  • Koda milet (Paspalum scorbiclatum)

Crop improvements: Major research on millets is carried out by the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT[?]) in Andhra Pradesh, India. http://www.icrisat.org

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