Millet: The millets are: i. Group of small-seeded grasses ii. Widely grown around the world as cereal crops iii. Grains for both human food and fodder. Millets are important crops in the semi-arid tropics of Asia and Africa, 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. While millets are grown in many parts of the world, but millets most likely has an evolutionary origin in tropical western Africa, as that is where the greatest number of both wild and cultivated forms exist.
History of Millet: Specialized archaeologists called palaeoethnobotanists, hypothesize that the cultivation of millets was of greater prevalence in prehistory than rice, especially in northern China and Korea. Millets also formed important parts of the prehistoric diet in Indian, Chinese Neolithic and Korean Mumun societies. Evidence of cultivation of millet in China has been found in around 8300–6700 BC. Millet was an important element in the intensive, multicropping agriculture of the Mumun pottery period (1500–300 BC) in Korea. Millets and their wild ancestors, such as barnyard grass and panic grass, were also cultivated in Japan during the Jōmon period (some time after 4000 BC)
Plant Characteristics: The height of millet plant may range from 0.5 to 4 meters. The millet grain has great variation, and can be nearly white, pale yellow, brown, grey, slate blue or purple. The kernel shape has five different classifications: obovate , hexagonal, lanceolate , globular and elliptical. Grains of millet are about 3 to 4 mm long. The seeds usually weigh between 2.5 and 14 grams. The size of the millet kernel is about one-third that of sorghum.
Nutritional Facts: Millet is a principal source of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for millions of the poorest people in the regions where it is cultivated. Millet, like sorghum, is generally 9 to 13% protein, but large variations in protein content, from 6 to 21%, have been observed. Millet grain compares favorably with maize and sorghum as a high-energy, high-protein ingredient in feed for poultry, cattle and sheep. Several studies indicated that, compared to maize, millet is 8-60% higher in crude protein, and 40% richer in amino-acids lysine and methonine.
Cont.. Millet contains more calories than wheat, probably because of it’s higher oil content of 4.2% which is 50% polyunsaturated. Millet is rich in B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc copper and manganese. Millet is a gluten free grain and is the only grain that retains it’s alkaline properties after being cooked which is ideal for people with wheat allergies
Anti nutritional facts: Oxalic acid in millet reduces the bioavailability of calcium and hence has a negative impact on milk production and fat content.
Millet as fodder: In many countries these are primary sources of animal feedstuffs. It is good source of diet as compared to the corn diet for various types of animals like poultry, ducks, cows. It is estimated that over 95% of millet production is used as food, the reminder being divided between animal and poultry feed (7%), other uses (seed, bakery products etc.)
Cont… The crop residue after grain harvest is valuable source of fodder for livestock because of its: Wide adaptation Short duration with rapid growth High tillering capacity Drought tolerance.
Cont… Utilization of grain as feed for the milch animals or poultry is not significant (7%) compared to sorghum (almost 50% of total output). Mostly millet grain is used as animal feed.