Pearl millet

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Pearl millet

second name Bajra /Bajri

Grain millet, early grain fill, Tifton, 7-3-02.jpg
U.S. pearl millet hybrid for grain
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Panicoideae
Genus: Pennisetum
Species: P. glaucum
Binomial name
Pennisetum glaucum

Setariopsis glauca (L.) Samp.
Setaria sericea (Sol.) P.Beauv.
Setaria rufa Chevall.
Setaria lutescens (Weigel) F.T.Hubb.
Setaria glauca (L.) P.Beauv.
Phleum africanum Lour.
Pennisetum typhoideum var. plukenetii
Pennisetum typhoideum var. echinurus
Pennisetum typhoideum Rich.
Pennisetum typhoides (Burm.f.) Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
Pennisetum spicatum subsp. willdenowii
Pennisetum spicatum var. typhoideum
Pennisetum spicatum var. macrostachyum
Pennisetum spicatum var. longipedunculatum
Pennisetum spicatum var. echinurus
Pennisetum spicatum (L.) Körn.
Pennisetum solitarium Stokes
Pennisetum pycnostachyum Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
Pennisetum plukenetii (Link) T.Durand & Schinz
Pennisetum nigritarum var. macrostachyum
Pennisetum nigritarum var. deflexum
Pennisetum nigritarum (Schltdl.) T.Durand & Schinz
Pennisetum megastachyum Steud.
Pennisetum malacochaete Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
Pennisetum maiwa Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
Pennisetum linnaei Kunth
Pennisetum leonis Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
Pennisetum indicum A.Braun
Pennisetum giganteum Ten. ex Steud.
Pennisetum gibbosum Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
Pennisetum gambiense Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
Pennisetum echinurus (K.Schum.) Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
Pennisetum cinereum Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
Pennisetum cereale Trin.
Pennisetum aureum Link
Pennisetum ancylochaete Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
Pennisetum americanum subsp. typhoideum
Pennisetum americanum subsp. spicatum
Pennisetum americanum f. echinurus
Pennisetum americanum (L.) Leeke
Pennisetum albicauda Stapf & C.E.Hubb.
Penicillaria willdenowii Klotzsch ex.A.Braun & C.D.Bouché
Penicillaria typhoidea (Burm.) Schltdl.
Penicillaria spicata (L.) Willd.
Penicillaria solitaria Stokes
Penicillaria roxburghii Müll.Berol
Penicillaria plukenetii Link
Penicillaria nigritarum Schltdl.
Penicillaria mossambicensis Müll.Berol
Penicillaria macrostachya Klotzsch
Penicillaria involucrata (Roxb.) Schult.
Penicillaria elongata Schrad. ex Schltdl.
Penicillaria deflexa Andersson ex A.Braun
Penicillaria ciliata Willd.
Penicillaria arabica A.Braun
Penicillaria alopecuroides A.Braun
Panicum spicatum (L.) Roxb.
Panicum sericeum Aiton
Panicum lutescens Weigel
Panicum involucratum Roxb.
Panicum indicum Mill.
Panicum holcoides Trin.
Panicum glaucum L.
Panicum compressum Balb. ex Steud.
Panicum coeruleum Mill.
Panicum americanum L.
Panicum alopecuroides J.Koenig ex Trin.
Ixophorus glaucus (L.) Nash
Holcus spicatus L.
Holcus racemosus Forssk.
Holcus paniciformis Roxb. ex Hook.f.
Chamaeraphis glauca (L.) Kuntze
Chaetochloa lutescens (Weigel) Stuntz
Chaetochloa glauca (L.) Scribn.
Cenchrus pycnostachyus Steud.
Andropogon racemosus (Forssk.) Poir. ex Steud.
Alopecurus typhoides Burm.f.

Pennisetum glaucum

Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) 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.[1] Cultivation subsequently spread and moved overseas to India. The earliest archaeological records in India date to around 2000 BC,[2] and it spread rapidly through India reaching South India by 1500 BC, based on evidence from the site of Hallur. Cultivation also spread throughout eastern and southern parts of Africa. Pearl millet is widely grown in the northeastern part of Nigeria (especially in Borno and Yobe states). It is a major source of food to the local villagers of that region. The crop grows easily in that region due to its ability to withstand harsh weather conditions like drought and flood. Records exist for cultivation of pearl millet in the United States in the 1850s, and the crop was introduced into Brazil in the 1960s.


A scientist in Zimbabwe checks a pearl millet crop

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.

Today pearl millet is grown on over 260,000 km2 of land worldwide. It accounts for approximately 50% of the total world production of millets.[3]

Common names for pearl millet[edit]

Pearl millet around the world[edit]


India is the largest producer of pearl millet. Rajasthan is the highest-producing state in India.



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.


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".

Mahangu pounding
Mahangu pounding.jpg

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.[4][not in citation given] After pounding, winnowing may be used to remove the chaff.

This flour mill in Tanzania mills pearl millet.

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".[5][not in citation given]

Research and development[edit]

Recently more productive varieties of pearl millet have been introduced, enabling farmers to increase production considerably.[6]

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.[7]

The most widely grown millet is pearl millet, which is an important sized crop in India and parts of Africa. Finger millet, proso millet, and foxtail millet are also important crop species. In the developed world, millets are less important. For example, in the United States the only significant crop is proso millet, which is mostly grown for bird seed.


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Millet. Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "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. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Munyaradzi, Makoni (29 August 2013). "Biofortified pearl millet 'can combat iron deficiency'". SciDev Net. Retrieved 29 August 2013. 

External links[edit]