Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Millet is a generic term meaning "small seed." Three types of millet are grown in North America: proso millet (Panicum mileacium), foxtail millet (Setaria italica), and pearl millet (Pennisetum americana). Proso millet is a short season plant that does well in low rainfall areas (fifteen to twenty inches annual precipitation). The seed is shiny white or red and is a large component of birdseed. It is also used for livestock and poultry feed. Proso millet is grown primarily in eastern Colorado, western Nebraska, and North and South Dakota.

Foxtail millet is grown in many parts of the world for forage and grain. In the United States, the forage is usually dried for hay and the seed is used in finch food because it is smaller than proso seed. Foxtail millet is grown in the Central and Northern Great Plains.

Pearl millet is grown and used for human consumption in Africa and for both forage and grain in the United States. Pearl millet forage is very productive in the southeastern United States. There has recently been interest in the use of the seed of pearl millet as a livestock feed because of newer hybrids that are highly productive. The greatest use of pearl millet for grain is in Nebraska and Kansas.

Because millet is grown by dryland farming there is considerable variation from year to year in production and yield per acre. For example, in 2002, 450,222 acres were planted to proso millet in Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota, but because of prevailing drought conditions only 220,000 acres were harvested. This yield was only 12 bushels per acre, compared to the 33 bushels per acre yield of 2001.

Lenis A. Nelson University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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