millet, common name for several species of grasses cultivated mainly for cereals in the Eastern Hemisphere and for forage and hay in North America. The principal varieties are the foxtail, pearl, and barnyard millets and the proso millet, called also broomcorn millet and hog millet. Much millet is grown in China, India, Manchuria, the USSR, and Africa. Foxtail millet ( Setaria italica ) comprises 90% of the millets grown in the United States. Proso millet ( Panicum miliaceum ) is the chief cereal in parts of Asia and Africa; in the United States it is used for feeding poultry and cage birds. Millet seeds or grain have served man and domestic animals as food (e.g., groats) since ancient times. The plant is known to have been grown by the lake dwellers of Switzerland in the Stone Age, and it was sown by the Chinese in religious ceremonies as early as 2700 B.C. Millets are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Cyperales, family Gramineae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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