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Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum) is also known as common millet, hog millet or white millet. Both the wild ancestor and the location of domestication of proso millet are unknown, but it first appears as a crop in both Transcaucasia and China about 7,000 years ago, suggesting it may have been domesticated independently in each area. It is still extensively cultivated in India, Russia, Ukraine, the Middle East, Turkey and Romania. In the United States, proso is mainly grown for birdseed. It is sold as health food, and due to its lack of gluten, it can be included in the diets of people who cannot tolerate wheat.
Proso is well adapted to many soil and climatic conditions; it has a short growing season, and needs little water. The water requirement of proso is probably the lowest of any major cereal. It is an excellent crop for dryland and no-till farming. Proso millet is an annual grass whose plants reach an average height of 100 cm (4 feet.). Like corn, it has a C4 photosynthesis. The seedheads grow in bunches. The seeds are small (2–3 mm or 0.1 inch) and can be cream, yellow, orange-red, or brown in colour.
History and domestication
Unlike the foxtail millet, the wild ancestor of the proso millet has not yet been satisfactorily identified. Weedy forms of this grain are found in central Asia, covering a widespread area from the Caspian Sea east to Xinjiang and Mongolia, and it may be that these semiarid areas may harbor "genuinely wild P. miliaceum forms." This millet has been reportedly found in Neolithic sites in Georgia (dated to the fifth and fourth millennia BC), as well as excavated Yangshao culture farming villages east in China. Proso millet appears to have reached Europe not long after its appearance in Georgia, first appearing in east and central Europe; however, the grain needed a few thousand more years to cross into Italy, Greece, and Iran, and the earliest evidence for its cultivation in the Near East is a find in the ruins of Nimrud, Iraq dated to about 700 BC.
While proso millet is not a member of the Neolithic Near East crop assemblage, it arrived in Europe no later than the time these introductions did, and proso millet as an independent domestication could predate the arrival of the Near East grain crops.
Dry millet yields : 400–800 kg/ha
Irrigated millet yields : 1-2 t/ha. The potential maximum grain yield is 6 t/ha.
In the United States, a grain yield of 4,5 t/ha has already been achieved by using millet as an intercrop in a non-irrigated (380 mm precipitations) and chemically controlled no-till system. As an intercrop, proso millet can help to avoid a summer fallow, and continuous crop rotation can be achieved. Its superficial root system and its resistance to atrazine residue make proso millet a good intercrop between two water and pesticide demanding crops. The stubbles of the last crop, by allowing more heat into the soil, result in a faster and earlier millet growth. While millet occupies the ground, because of its superficial root system, the soil can replenish in water for the next crop. The later, for example a winter wheat, can in turn benefits from the millet stubbles, which can notably act as snow accumulators.
Proso millet is one of the few types of millet not cultivated in Africa. In the United States, former Soviet Union, and some South American countries, it is primarily grown for livestock feed. As a grain fodder, it is very deficient in lysine and needs complementation. Proso millet is also a poor fodder due to its low leave:stem ratio and a possible irritant effect due to its hairy stem. Foxtail millet, having a higher leave:stem ratio and less hairy stems, is preferred as fodder, particularly the variety called moha, which is a high quality fodder.
- Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of plants in the Old World, third edition (Oxford: University Press, 2000), p. 83
- Zohary and Hopf, Domestication, p. 86
- Brink, Martin; Belay, Getachew (2006). Céréales et légumes secs (Brink, M. & Belay, G ed.). ISBN 978-90-5782-172-1.
- Producing and marketing proso millet in the great plains, U. Nabraska-Lincoln Extension
- National Research Council (1996-02-14). "Ebony". Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I: Grains. Lost Crops of Africa 1. National Academies Press. p. 260. ISBN 978-0-309-04990-0. Retrieved 2008-07-18.