1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Millet

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EB1911 Millet.png
Setaria italica.

MILLET (Fr. millet; Ital. miglietto, diminutive of miglio = Lat. mille, a thousand, in allusion to its fertility), a name applied with little definiteness to a considerable number of often very variable species of cereals, belonging to distinct genera and even subfamilies of Gramineae. Common millet is Panicum miliaceum (German Hirse). It is probably a native of Egypt and Arabia but has been cultivated in Egypt, Asia and southern Europe from prehistoric times. It is annual, requires rich but friable soil, grows to about 3 or 4 ft. high, and is characterized by its bristly, much branched nodding panicles. One variety has black grains. It is cultivated in India, southern Europe, and northern Africa, and ripens as far north as southern Germany, in fact, wherever the climate admits of the production of wine. The grain, which is very nutritious, is used in the form of groats, and makes excellent bread when mixed with wheaten flour. It is also largely used for feeding poultry, for which purpose mainly it is imported. Hungarian grass, Setaria italica (also called Panicum italicum), a native of eastern Asia is one of the most wholesome and palatable Indian cereals. It is annual, grows 4 to 5 ft. high, and requires dry light soil. German Millet (Ger. Kolbenhirse, Mohar) is probably merely a less valuable and dwarf variety of S. italica, having an erect, compact, and shorter spike. The grains of both are very small, only one half as long as those of common millet, but are exceedingly prolific. Many stalks arise from a single root, and a single spike often yields 2 oz. of grain, the total yield being five times that of wheat. They are imported for poultry feeding like the former species and for cage-birds, but are extensively used in soups, &c., on the Continent. Numerous other species belonging to the vast genus Panicum—the largest among grasses, of which the following are among the most important—are also cultivated in tropical or subtropical countries for their grain or as fodder grasses, or both, each variety of soil, from swamp to desert, having its characteristic forms.

Polish millet is P. sanguinale; P. frumentaceum, shamalo, a Deccan grass, is probably a native of tropical Africa; P. decompositum is the Australian millet, its grains being made into cakes by the aborigines. P. maximum is the Guinea grass, native of tropical Africa; it is perennial, grows 8 ft. high, and yields abundance of highly nutritious grain. P. spectabile is the coapim of Angola, but has been acclimatized in Brazil and other tropical countries. Other gigantic species 6 or 7 ft. high form the held crops on the banks of the Amazon. Of species belonging to allied genera, Pennisetum typhoideum, bajree, sometimes also called Egyptian millet or pearl millet, is largely cultivated in tropical Asia, Nubia and Egypt. Species of Paspalum, Eleusine and Milium, are also cultivated as millets. For Indian millet, see Durra.