Millet is a cereal grain grown throughout the world for a variety of reasons. In addition, millet is not a single grain, but a collection of grass varieties harvested as grains. Nutrients millet contains in abundance include manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous-one cup of the grain providing one-fourth to one-third of one’s daily values.1 A primary component in some bird seeds, millet is valued as an important food crop for healthy living.
Millet for Animal Food
In the United States, there are five primary varieties of millet used for different purposes. Barnyard millet is grown for forage and Browntop millet for food for animals in game preserves. Proso millet, while mostly grown for livestock feed and birdseed, is gluten-free and suitable as a food item for sufferers of Celiac disease. Foxtail millet is utilized in the U.S. for hay and silage, although in other countries such as China, the poor use it as food. Planting information, yield expectations, nutritional values and much more can be found in the online web document: “Alternative Field Crops Manual – Millets,” by Oelke, Opplinger, Putnam, Durgan, et. al.
Millet for “People Food“
The most widely grown millet is the Pearl millet. Pearl millet grows well in sub-standard soils, including those of low fertility, high salinity, acid pH, etc. It survives high temperatures and drought conditions. India is the largest provider of pearl millet. Would you enjoy making some pan-toasted millet with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and raisins for a lovely breakfast cereal? If so, you will enjoy this how-to video.
One additional human application of interest is the use of millet to make a mash for the preparation of millet whisky. This beverage is particularly appreciated in the East,2 although the author has seen millet planted, for whatever purpose, on the acreage of a nearby whisky distillery.
Decorative or Ornamental Millet
There are varieties of millet that have been bred particularly for decorative purposes, such as this ‘Purple Majesty’ ornamental variety (University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Horticulture). Here is another variety of ornamental millet, ‘Jester’ (Cornell University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences).
Millet as Green Manure for Soil Improvement
Millet is not a legume, and so is not primarily planted to improve the soil nitrogen level. It is, rather, planted to eliminate weeds and to increase biomass.3 In addition, it increases soil porosity, allowing plant roots to develop fully. Conceivably, millet could be used for one, two, or more of the above applications, simultaneously.
1 WH Foods: Millet
2The ABC’s of trekking in Nepal
3 The Clean Energy Ideas website says biomass refers “to the organic matter which can be used as a renewable energy source.”
Additional References and Resources:
National Sustainable Agricultural Information Service – Overview of Cover Crops and Green Manure
Organic Agriculture – A Glossary of Terms for Farmers and Gardeners
Vicious Sweet Tooth – The Sweet and Savory Side of Millet