Pearl millet

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Pearl millet
Grain millet, early grain fill, Tifton, 7-3-02.jpg
Pearl millet hybrid for grain
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Panicoideae
Genus: Cenchrus
C. americanus
Binomial name
Cenchrus americanus
(L.) Morrone
    • Alopecurus typhoides Burm.f.
    • Andropogon racemosus (Forssk.) Poir. ex Steud.
    • Cenchrus paniceus B.Heyne ex Wall.
    • Cenchrus pycnostachyus Steud.
    • Cenchrus spicatus (L.) Cav.
    • Chaetochloa glauca (L.) Scribn.
    • Chaetochloa lutescens Stuntz
    • Chamaeraphis glauca (L.) Kuntze
    • Holcus paniciformis Roxb. ex Hook.f.
    • Holcus racemosus Forssk.
    • Holcus spicatus L.
    • Ixophorus glaucus (L.) Nash
    • Panicum alopecuroides J.Koenig ex Trin.
    • Panicum americanum L.
    • Panicum coeruleum Mill.
    • Panicum compressum Balb. ex Steud.
    • Panicum glaucum L.
    • Panicum holcoides Trin.
    • Panicum indicum Mill.
    • Panicum involucratum Roxb.
    • Panicum spicatum (L.) Roxb.
    • Penicillaria arabica A.Braun
    • Penicillaria deflexa Andersson ex A.Braun
    • Penicillaria elongata Schrad. ex Schltdl.
    • Penicillaria involucrata (Roxb.) Schult.
    • Penicillaria nigritarum Schltdl.
    • Penicillaria plukenetii Link
    • Penicillaria roxburghii A.Braun
    • Penicillaria solitaria Stokes
    • Penicillaria spicata (L.) Willd.
    • Pennisetum albicauda Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
    • Pennisetum americanum convar. spicatum (L.) Tzvelev
    • Pennisetum americanum convar. typhoides Tzvelev
    • Pennisetum ancylochaete Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
    • Pennisetum aureum Link
    • Pennisetum cereale Trin.
    • Pennisetum cinereum Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
    • Pennisetum echinurus (K.Schum.) Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
    • Pennisetum gambiense Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
    • Pennisetum gibbosum Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
    • Pennisetum giganteum Ten. ex Steud.
    • Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R.Br.
    • Pennisetum leonis Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
    • Pennisetum maiwa Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
    • Pennisetum malacochaete Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
    • Pennisetum megastachyum Steud.
    • Pennisetum nigritarum (Schltdl.) T.Durand & Schinz
    • Pennisetum plukenetii (Link) T.Durand & Schinz
    • Pennisetum pycnostachyum Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
    • Pennisetum spicatum (L.) Körn.
    • Phleum africanum Lour.
    • Setaria glauca (L.) P.Beauv.
    • Setaria rufa Chevall.
    • Setaria sericea (Aiton) P.Beauv.
    • Setariopsis glauca (L.) Samp.

Pearl millet (Cenchrus americanus, commonly known as the synonym Pennisetum glaucum; also known as 'Bajra' in Hindi, 'Sajje' in Kannada, 'Kambu' in Tamil, 'Bajeer' in Kumaoni and 'Gero' in Hausa) is the most widely grown type of millet. It has been grown in Africa and the Indian subcontinent since prehistoric times. The center of diversity, and suggested area of domestication, for the crop is in the Sahel zone of West Africa. Recent archaeobotanical research has confirmed the presence of domesticated pearl millet on the Sahel zone of northern Mali between 2500 and 2000 BC.[2][3]



Pearl millet has ovoid grains of 3 – 4 mm length, the largest kernels of all varieties of millet (not including sorghum). These can be nearly white, pale yellow, brown, grey, slate blue or purple. The 1000-seed weight can be anything from 2.5 to 14 g with a mean of 8 g.

The height of the plant ranges from 0.5 – 4 m.[4]


Pearl millet is well adapted to growing areas characterized by drought, low soil fertility, and high temperature. It performs well in soils with high salinity or low pH. Because of its tolerance to difficult growing conditions, it can be grown in areas where other cereal crops, such as maize or wheat, would not survive. Pearl millet is a summer annual crop well-suited for double cropping and rotations.

Today pearl millet is grown on over 260,000 km2 of land worldwide. It accounts for about 50% of the total world production of millets.[5]

Culinary use[edit]

Bajhar ji maani prepared in Tharparkar, Sindh is served with various types of Kadhi and Bhaaji in meal
Flatbreads made of pearl millet flour, known as Bajhar ji maani or Bajre ki roti (बाजरे की रोटी) in Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana & Bajra no rotlo (બાજરા નો રોટલો) in Gujarat, India, are served with various types of Kadhi and Bhaaji in meals.

Pearl millet is commonly used to make bhakri flatbread. It is also boiled to make a Tamil porridge called kamban choru or "kamban koozh".

In Rajasthani cuisine bajre ki khatti rabdi is a traditional dish made with pearl millet flour and yogurt. It is usually made in summers to be served along with meals.

Around the world[edit]


India is the largest producer of pearl millet. India began growing pearl millet between 1500 and 1100 BCE.[6] It is currently unknown how it made its way to India.[6] Rajasthan is the highest-producing state in India. The first hybrid of pearl millet developed in India in 1965 is called the HB1.

Sajje is the local name of the Pearl Millet in Karnataka and is mostly grown in the semi arid districts of North Karnataka. Sajje is milled and used for making flatbread called 'Sajje Rotti' and is eaten with Yennegai (stuffed brinjal) and curds.

Kambu is the Tamil name of pearl millet and is an important food across the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is the second important food for Tamil people consumed predominantly in the hot humid summer months from February through May every year. It is made into a gruel and consumed along with buttermilk or consumed as dosa or idly.

Pearl Millet is called Bajra in Northern Indian states. There was a time when Bajra along with Jowar were the staple food in these states but it reduced to mere cattle fodder crop after the Green Revolution. Wheat and Rice dominate the northern plains today.


The second largest producer of pearl millet and the first to start cultivation, Africa has been successful in bringing back this lost crop.


Pearl millet is an important food across the Sahel region of Africa. It is a main staple (along with sorghum) in a large region of northern Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. In Nigeria it is usually grown as an intercrop with sorghum and cowpea, the different growth habits, growth period and drought vulnerability of the three crops maximising total productivity and minimising the risk of total crop failure. It is often ground into a flour, rolled into large balls, parboiled, liquefied into a watery paste using fermented milk, and then consumed as a beverage. This beverage, called "fura" in Hausa, is a popular drink in northern Nigeria and southern Niger. Pearl millet is a food widely used in Borno state and its surrounding states, it is the most widely grown and harvested crop. There are many products that are obtained from the processing of the crop.


In Namibia, pearl millet is locally known as "mahangu" and is grown mainly in the north of that country, where it is the staple food. In the dry, unpredictable climate of this area it grows better than alternatives such as maize.

Mahangu is usually made into a porridge called "oshifima" (or "oshithima"), or fermented to make a drink called "ontaku" or "oshikundu".

Traditionally the mahangu is pounded with heavy pieces of wood in a 'pounding area'. The floor of the pounding area is covered with a concrete-like coating made from the material of termite mounds. As a result, some sand and grit gets into the pounded mahangu, so products like oshifima are usually swallowed without chewing.[7][failed verification] After pounding, winnowing may be used to remove the chaff.

Some industrial grain processing facilities now exist, such as those operated by Namib Mills. Efforts are also being made to develop smaller scale processing using food extrusion and other methods. In a food extruder, the mahangu is milled into a paste before being forced through metal die. Products made this way include breakfast cereals, including puffed grains and porridge, pasta shapes, and "rice".[8]

Research and development[edit]

Recently more productive varieties of pearl millet have been introduced, enabling farmers to increase production considerably.[9]

To combat the problem of micronutrient malnutrition in Africa and Asia, a study of serving iron-biofortified pearl millets which is bred conventionally without genetic modification to a control group is proved to have higher level of iron absorbance by the group.[10]

Around 1000 pearl millet genotypes, including 31 wild genotypes are sequenced to grasp the genetic diversity of this staple crop to aid breeding by enriching the genetic material. A reference genotype of pearl millet (Tift 23D2B1-P1-P5) has been fully sequenced, which holds around 38,579 genes. Some of these genes are for wax biosynthesis, which is known to be involved in tolerance to abiotic stresses in pearl millet.[11] ICRISAT is currently evaluating crop wild relatives and will introgress abiotic tolerant traits into cultivated genotypes and make them available for pearl millet improvement.[12]


The larvae of several insect species, primarily belonging to the orders Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Diptera, and Hemiptera, as well as Orthoptera adults, are persistent pearl millet pests in the Sahel.[13][14][15] The following pest species are reported for northern Mali.[16][17]

Grasshoppers that frequently attack millets in the Dogon country of Mali are Oedaleus senegalensis, Kraussaria angulifera, Cataloipus cymbiferus, and Diabolocatantops axillaris.[16]

In northern Ghana, Poophilus costalis (spittle bug) is reported as a millet pest, as well as Dysdercus volkeri, Heliocheilus albipunctella, Coniesta ignefusalis, and caterpillars of Amsacta moloneyi and Helicoverpa armigera.[19]

In northern Nigeria, heavy infestations of Hycleus species, including Hycleus terminatus (syn. Mylabris afzelli), Hycleus fimbriatus (syn. Mylabris fimbriatus), Hycleus hermanniae (syn. Coryna hermanniae), and Hycleus chevrolati (syn. Coryna chevrolati), have affected early plantings of pearl millet crops.[20]

In South India, pests include the shoot fly Atherigona approximata.[21]

In North America, regular pests include the chinch bug Blissus leucopterus.[22][23][24][25][26]



  1. ^ "Cenchrus americanus (L.) Morrone". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  2. ^ Manning, Katie, Ruth Pelling, Tom Higham, Jean-Luc Schwenniger and Dorian Q Fuller (2010) 4500-year-old domesticated pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) from the Tilemsi Valley, Mali: new insights into an alternative cereal domestication pathway. Journal of Archaeological Science 38 (2): 312-322
  3. ^ Fuller, D.Q. (2003). African crops in prehistoric South Asia: a critical review. in Neumann, K., Butler, A., Kahlheber, S. (ed.) Food, Fuel and Fields. Progress in Africa Archaeobotany. Africa Praehistorica 15 series. Cologne: Heinrich-Barth-Institut, 239-271.
  4. ^ "Sorghum and millet in human nutrition". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 1995.
  5. ^ Millet Archived 2007-07-11 at the Wayback Machine. Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
  6. ^ a b Singh, Purushottam (1996). "The origin and dispersal of millet cultivation in India" (PDF). Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-02-21. Retrieved 2006-05-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Enhancing food security in Namibia through value-added products". Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. March 2003. Archived from the original on 6 December 2005. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  9. ^ Board on Science and Technology for International Development; Office of International Affairs; National Research Council (1996-02-14). "Pearl Millet: Subsistence Types". Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I: Grains. Lost Crops of Africa. 1. National Academies Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-309-04990-0. Retrieved 2007-11-07.
  10. ^ Munyaradzi, Makoni (29 August 2013). "Biofortified pearl millet 'can combat iron deficiency'". SciDev Net. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  11. ^ K Varshney, Rajeev; Shi, Chengcheng; Thudi, Mahendar; Cedric, Mariac; Wallace, Jason; Qi, Peng; Zhang, He; Zhao, Yusheng; Wang, Xiyin (2018-04-05). "Erratum: Pearl millet genome sequence provides a resource to improve agronomic traits in arid environments". Nature Biotechnology. 36 (4): 368. doi:10.1038/nbt0418-368d. S2CID 4608024.
  12. ^ Sharma, Shivali; Sharma, Rajan; Govindaraj, Mahalingam; Mahala, Rajendra Singh; Satyavathi, C. Tara; Srivastava, Rakesh K.; Gumma, Murali Krishna; Kilian, Benjamin (2021). "Harnessing wild relatives of pearl millet for germplasm enhancement: Challenges and opportunities". Crop Science. 61 (1): 177–200. doi:10.1002/csc2.20343. ISSN 1435-0653.
  13. ^ S. Krall, O. Youm, and S. A. Kogo. Panicle insect pest damage and yield loss in pearl millet.
  14. ^ Jago, N. D. 1993. Millet pests of the Sahel: biology, monitoring and control. Chatham UK: Natural Resources Institute. 66 pp. ISBN 0-85954-349-8.
  15. ^ Matthews, M. and N. D. Jago. 1993. Millet pests of the Sahel: an identification guide. Chatham UK: Natural Resources Institute. (80 p.) ISBN 0-85954-331-5.
  16. ^ a b Heath, Jeffrey. "Guide to insects, arthropods, and molluscs of northern Dogon country".
  17. ^ Ruparao T. Gahukar, Gadi V. P. Reddy. Management of Economically Important Insect Pests of Millet. Journal of Integrated Pest Management (2019) 10(1): 28; 1–10
  18. ^ Bekoye, B. M., and A. Dadie. 2015. Evaluation des pertes en grains de mil dues aux insectes. Eur. Sci. J. 11: 266–275.
  19. ^ Tanzubil, Paul B. & Emmanuel A. Yakubu (1997). Insect pests of millet in Northern Ghana. 1. Farmers' perceptions and damage potential. International Journal of Pest Management, 43:2, 133-136. doi:10.1080/096708797228825
  20. ^ Lale, N. E. S., and B. M. Sastawa. 2000. Evaluation of host plant resistance, sowing date modification and intercropping as methods for the control of Mylabris and Coryna species (Coleoptera: Meloidae) infesting pearl millet in the Nigerian Sudan savanna. J. Arid Environ. 46: 263–280.
  21. ^ Natarajan, V. S., V. D. G. Raja, and S. Anavardham. 1973. Extent of damage caused by shoot fly (Atherigona approximate) on bajra hybrid. Madras Agric. J. 60: 584–585.
  22. ^ Buntin, G. D., X. Ni, and J. P. Wilson. 2007. Chinch bug control in pearl millet for grain production. Arthropod. Manag. Tests 32: F41.
  23. ^ Ni, X., J. P. Wilson, J. A. Rajewski, G. D. Buntin, and I. Dweikat. 2007. Field screening of pearl millet for chinch bug (Heteroptera: Blissidae) resistance. J. Entomol. Sci. 42: 467–480.
  24. ^ Rajewski, J. A., X. Ni, J. P. Wilson, and I. Dweikat. 2009. Evaluation of resistance to chinch bug in pearl millet in temperate and subtropical environments.
  25. ^ Starks, K. J., A. J. Cassady, O. G. Merkle, and D. Boozaya-Angoon. 1982. Chinch bug resistance in pearl millet. J. Econ. Entomol. 75: 337–339.
  26. ^ Wilson, J. P., B. Ouendeba, and W. W. Hanna. 2008. Diallel analysis of chinch bug damage to pearl millet. International Sorghum Millets Newsletter 41: 78–79.

Further reading[edit]