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Millet plants
Coix lacryma-jobi (Job's Tear)
Millet grains

Millet is a collective name for small-fruited husk grain with 10–12 genera. They belong to the sweet grass family (Poaceae). The name millet, which was also used male in the past, comes from Old Germanic ( ahd. Hirsa next to hirsi and hirso ) and is derived from an Indo-European word for "satiety, nutrition, nourishment" (cf. the Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility Ceres ). Millet was already used to make unleavened flatbread 8000 years ago . Millet has been used for agriculture in China for at least 4000 years. Millet or real millet ( Panicum miliaceum ) used to be grown in Europe as a food.

All types of millet can be divided into two main groups according to the nature of the grains:

  1. Sorghum (Sorghum) with significantly larger grains and hence higher yields per hectare (14-17 t / ha).
  2. Millet millet (Paniceae, also called real millet or small millet ). These include most of the genera, e.g. B. Panicum, millet (Setaria), pearl millet (Pennisetum), finger millet (Eleusine) and teff (Eragrostis). The grains of these genera are quite small, the yields correspondingly low (approx. 7–9 dt / ha). The term "millet" is used predominantly in the English and French languages. In Africa one often speaks of Milo or Milocorn .

Species used

The cultivated and used millets include the following types :

Subfamily Panicoideae : Tribe Andropogoneae:

also subfamily Panicoideae: Tribus Paniceae:

  • Panicum
  • Setaria
  • Pennisetum
  • Paspalum
    • Codo millet ( Paspalum scrobiculatum L.), is a very drought-resistant grain that also grows on nutrient-poor soils. It is grown in India, but also in the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and West Africa.
  • Echinochloa
    • Japanese millet , sawah millet ( Echinochloa frumentacea Link), is grown and used as food in Egypt, India, Kashmir and Sikkim . In the United States, Africa, and Canada, it is largely used as feed for livestock and as bird feed.
    • Japanese millet, also Japanese millet ( Echinochloa esculenta (A.Braun) H.Scholz), is grown on a small scale in Japan, China and Korea both as food and as animal feed, as forage also in Australia and the USA.
    • Chicken millet ( Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) P.Beauv.), The wild ancestral form of Echinochloa esculenta . Gathered in the Neolithic, today a dreaded weed in rice (according to FAO third most important weed plant worldwide), not grown or cultivated.
    • Burgu, Bourgou, Banti ( Echinochloa stagnina (Retz.) P.Beauv.). Formerly harvested as wild grain in the Niger Delta , not cultivated. Today only as fodder.
    • Shama millet, chindumba ( Echinochloa colona (L.) Link), in India and East Africa, but is rarely used. The wild stem form of Echinochloa frumentacea .
    • Antelope grass ( Echinochloa pyramidalis (Lam.) Hitchc. & Chase.), Rarely used wild grain in parts of Africa, is not cultivated.
  • Digitaria
    • Fonio millet ; White Fonio ( Digitaria exilis (Kippist) Stapf), Black Fonio ( Digitaria iburua Stapf), staple food in some regions of West Africa with poor soils, such as East Senegal, West Burkina Faso, South Mali, South Niger, and Northeast Nigeria Cameroon.
    • Raishan ( Digitaria compacta ), ( Digitaria cruciata ), only used in Northeast India.
    • Blood-red foxglove ( Digitaria sanguinalis )
  • Urochloa
  • Brachiaria
    • Guinea millet , Kolo ( Brachiaria deflexa (Schumach.) CEHubb. Ex Robyns), only local in Guinea.
    • Brown millet , Anda Cora ( Brachiaria ramosa (L.) Stapf), only cultivated in southern India.

Subfamily Chloridoideae : Tribe Eragrostideae:


The economically most important millets are pearl millet , black millet (also known as sugar millet), finger millet , millet millet , millet and teff , also known as dwarf millet.

Food and feed

(100 g each)
Components Panicum miliaceum
water 12.1 g
protein 9.8 g
fat 3.9 g
carbohydrates 68.8 g
Fiber 3.8 g

Millet is a grain that is very rich in minerals. Millet contains fluorine , sulfur , phosphorus , magnesium , potassium and, compared to other grains, a particularly large amount of silicon ( silica ), iron and vitamin B6 . Flavonoids contained in millet can, however, like soybeans or cassava , hinder the absorption of iodine from food and thus promote the pathological enlargement of the thyroid gland ( goiter ). The millet ("golden millet") that has been peeled off is common in the trade. There is also the unpeeled millet, in which most of the minerals and trace elements adhering to the skin are preserved, as well as the dark-skinned brown millet . However, the hydrogen cyanide content may not be entirely harmless, especially in raw millet. Millet can be used to make gluten-free baked goods. In many areas of Africa and Asia , the different types of millet are staple food, but are increasingly being replaced by maize . Millet is used as food and in Eastern Europe as fodder, in Europe and North America it is also used as bird feed for ornamental birds.

Millet is also the basis of some traditional beers, for example Dolo in West Africa, Pombe in East Africa and Merisa in Sudan. In Ethiopia , the millet type teff (Eragrostis tef) is the most important food crop for humans. Millet is used industrially by some specialized breweries to produce gluten-free beer for people with gluten intolerance (celiac disease). In China a number of spirits are distilled from millet, which are called Baijiu , the best known Chinese millet brandy is Maotai .

Industrial use

Sugar millet ( Sorghum bicolor ), in the field.

For industrial use, millet is of particular interest. In addition to the seeds, the stalks are also used to produce natural fibers ( fiber millet ).

In the USA, great hopes are being placed in switchgrass as a supplier of cellulosic ethanol . The sorghum is considered due to the large and carbohydrate-rich biomass as a promising energy crop for biogas production , particularly in dry locations.

Usage history

The two oldest finds of millet in Germany (near Leipzig and Hadersleben district ) date from the time of linear ceramics ( early Neolithic 5500-4900 BC). In ancient times and the Middle Ages, the different types of millet were among the most widely grown grain. Excavations in central and northern Germany also show that millet was grown in the pre-Roman Iron Age ( Hallstatt and Latène Ages ) and the Roman period (1st – 3rd centuries AD). In the early modern period they were almost completely displaced in Europe by imports of potatoes and corn. In the Himalayan region, a low-alcohol beer is brewed from different types. In the Balkans, Turkey and Central Asia, people drink a low-alcohol drink called Boza , which is (originally) based on millet malt. Only millet was served to guests of the Hun King Attila . To strengthen health and strength, the Greek philosopher Pythagoras recommended millet.

Economical meaning

According to the FAO, around 90 million tons of millet were produced worldwide in 2018 . Of this, 59.3 million t was sorghum and 31.0 million t was millet. The hectare yield with an average of 11.6  dt / ha (Millet: 9.2 dt / ha, sorghum: 14.0 dt / ha) is the lowest of all grain types. This is one of the reasons why the much higher-yielding maize is becoming increasingly popular in traditional millet-growing areas. However, millet has the great advantage over maize that the harvest almost never fails completely, even in very bad weather.

The millet produced was mainly processed into porridge and animal feed .

See also

Web links

Commons : Millet Millet  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
Commons : Sorghum  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Millet  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Waldemar Ternes , Alfred Täufel, Lieselotte Tunger, Martin Zobel (eds.): Food Lexicon . 4th, comprehensively revised edition. Behr, Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-89947-165-2 .
  2. Taxonomic assignment according to the article to the respective subfamily
  3. Colin W. Wrigley, Harold Corke, Koushik Seetharaman, Jonathan Faubion: Encyclopedia of Food Grains. Vol. 1, Second Edition, Academic Press, 2016, ISBN 978-0-12-803537-5 , pp. 16–19, limited preview in Google Book Search.
  4. This tribe also includes maize , sugar cane and lemongrass as other useful plants
  5. American Millets. In: Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas: The Cambridge World History of Food. Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-521-40216-6 (set).
  6. JMJ de Wet: Origin, evolution and systematics of minor cereals. Chapter 2, In: A. Seetharam, KW Riley, G. Harinarayana: Small Millets in Global Agriculture. Proceedings of the First International Small Millets Workshop, Bangalore, India, 1986, Oxford & IBH Publishing Co., New Delhi 1989, ISBN 81-204-0434-3 .
  7. a b c d e f Lost Crops of Africa. Volume I: Grains , The National Academies Press, 1996, ISBN 0-309-04990-3 , pp. 251-272.
  8. ^ Ahmad Hasan Dani, Jean-Pierre Mohen: History of Humanity. Vol. II, UNESCO, 1996, ISBN 92-3-102811-1 , p. 1056.
  9. M. Brinck, G. Belay: Cereals and Pulses. Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 1, Prota, 2006, ISBN 90-5782-170-2 , p. 163.
  10. NR Das: Glossary Of Indian Crops. Scientific Publishers, 2013, ISBN 978-81-7233-853-4 , pp. 133, 215.
  11. KR Krishna Agro Ecosystems of South India. BrownWalker Press, 2010, ISBN 978-1-59942-533-7 , pp. 5-8.
  12. Salej Sood, Rajesh K. Khulbe, Arun K. Gupta, Pawan K. Agrawal, Hari D. Upadhyaya, Jagdish C. Bhatt (2015): Barnyard millet - a potential food and feed crop of future. Plant Breeding 134: 135-147. doi: 10.1111 / pbr.12243
  13. a b c d Ghillean Prance, Mark Nesbitt: The Cultural History of Plants. Routledge, 2005, ISBN 0-415-92746-3 , pp. 54 ff.
  14. a b c millets on, accessed on February 21 2018th
  15. According to the translation of the botanical name, the genus Digitaria is also known as finger millet
  16. ^ A b John H. Wiersema, Blanca León: World Economic Plants. Second Edition, CRC Press, 2013, ISBN 978-1-4665-7681-0 , p. 109 f.
  17. a b millet at
  18. Millet: A Gluten-Free Grain You Should Avoid . In: The Paleo Diet . December 8, 2014 ( [accessed June 3, 2018]).
  19. Liuska Pesce and Peter Kopp (2014): Iodide transport: implications for health and disease. International Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology 2014: 8 doi: 10.1186 / 1687-9856-2014-8
  20. Hydrocyanic acid content
  21. Technologie- und Förderzentrum (TFZ): Sorghum for use in biogas plants. , TFZ, Straubing 2010.
  22. Udelgard Körber-Grohne: Useful plants in Germany: cultural history and biology. Verlag Theiss, 1987, ISBN 3-8062-0481-0 .
  23. Udelgard Körber-Grohne: Crop Plants and Environment in Roman Germania , published by the Society for Pre- and Early History in Württemberg and Hohenzollern e. V.
  24. FAO production statistics for 2018 ,, accessed on March 13, 2020