Close-up of Millet (Panicum miliaceum) ready for harvest

Ⓒ Courtesy EcoPort ( Jan Breithaupt

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Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum) flower(s)

Ⓒ Steve Dewey, Utah State University,

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Millet (Panicum miliaceum). The small creamy-yellow seeds are edible and used as a cereal.

Ⓒ Courtesy EcoPort ( R. Botha

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Millet (Panicum miliaceum) Line drawing: 1.) habit flowering stem; 2.) detail inflorescence branch; 3.) grains; cv. subgroup Miliaceum:- 4.) habit flowering stem; 5.) detail inflorescence branch.

Ⓒ Reproduced from the series 'Plant Resources of South-East Asia', by kind permission of the PROSEA Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia.

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Active full-grown millet stemborer (Coniesta ignefusalis) larva (feeding and damage) in millet stem.

Ⓒ ICRISAT - International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.

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Shoot fly (Atherigona soccata) The adults are dark brown, and similar to a housefly, but nearly half the size.

Ⓒ Courtesy EcoPort ( Georg Goergen

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Variegated grasshopper (Zonocerus variegatus). The size of adult grasshoppers may vary between 3 - 5 cm

Ⓒ PRIFAS. Courtesy of EcoPort,

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Lesser grain borer (Rhyzopertha dominica). Adults are 2-3 mm in length and reddish-brown in colour (shown on wheat grains).

Ⓒ Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, United States,

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Blast(Pyricularia grisea) on millet

Ⓒ Reproduced from PEARL MILLET DISEASES - A Compilation of Information of the Known Pathogens of Pearl Millet (

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Long smut (Tolyposporium penicillariae)

Ⓒ Kranz J., Schmutterer H., Koch W. Courtesy of EcoPort,

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Millet damaged by the larger grain borer

Ⓒ J. Maundu, icipe

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Scientific Name: 

Panicum miliaceum

Order / Family: 
Cyperales: Poaceae
Local Names: 
Mawele (Swahili)
Pests & Diseases:
Other pests: Downy mildew, Fusarium wilt, Purple witchweed

Geographical Distribution in Africa

Geographical Distribution of Millet in Africa. Updated 8th July 2019. Source FAOSTAT


General Information and Agronomic Aspects


Millets refers to a group of annual grasses mainly found in the arid and semiarid regions of the world. These grasses produce small seeded grains and are often cultivated as cereals. The most widely cultivated species are: 

  • Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum)
  • Foxtail millet (Setaria italica)
  • Common millet or proso millet (Panicum miliaceum)
  • Finger millet (Eleusine coracana)

The husked grain of millet has a slightly nutty flavour and can be eaten whole after roasting or after cooking or boiling like rice. Millet flour is used for making mush, porridge, flat bread or chapatti. The flour is also used for making wine or beer. The grain is a feed for animals. The green plant is used as forage, but the quality of the straw is poor. Brooms are made from the straw. Starch from the grains is used for sizing textiles. Millet plays a vital role as a food security crop especially in semi arid lands of Kenya. Some millet varieties will survive drought conditions where maize crops often fail to reach maturity. The popularity of millet fell for some years due to introduction of maize, wheat and rice, but is again on the rise with millers being able to sell far more than is delivered. Millet is fast becoming a popular baby food as the grains are rich in calcium and have a pleasant flavour. Due to unpredictable rainfall patterns, Kenya has been experiencing frequent maize crop failure (the main staple) leading the Government of Kenya to encourage the production of indigenous, drought tolerant crops like millet.

Nutritive Value per 100 g of edible Portion

Raw or Cooked Millet Food
(Calories / %Daily Value*)
(g / %DV)
(g / %DV)
(g / %DV)
(g / %DV)
(mg / %DV)
(mg / %DV)
(mg / %DV)
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
Vitamin B 6
Vitamin B 12
(mg / %DV)
(mg / %DV)
(g / %DV)
Millet cooked 119 / 6% 23.7 / 8% 1.0 / 2% 3.5 / 7% 3.0 / 0% 100.0 / 10% 0.6 / 3% 62.0 / 2% 3.0 IU / 0% 0.0 / 0% 0.1 / 5% 0.0 / 0% 0.1 / 7% 0.1 / 5% 0.4
Millet puffed 354 / 18% 80.0 / 27% 3.4 / 5% 13.0 / 26% 8.0 / 1% 266 / 27% 2.8 / 16% 40.0 / 1% 0.0 IU / 0% 0.0 / 0% 0.4 / 18% 0.0 / 0% 0.4 / 26% 0.3 / 16% 1.6
Millet raw 378 / 19% 72.9 / 24% 4.2 / 6% 11.0 / 22% 8.0 / 1% 285 / 28% 3.0 / 17% 195 / 6% 0.0 IU / 0% 0.0 / 0% 0.4 / 19% 0.0 / 0% 0.4 / 28% 0.3 / 17% 3.3

*Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower, depending on your calorie needs.


Climate conditions, soil and water management

Millet is mostly grown in temperate and subtropical regions. It is adapted to conditions that are too hot and too dry, and to soils too shallow and poor for successful cultivation of other cereals. It is tolerant to a very wide temperature range but susceptible to frost. Cultivation occurs up to 3000 m altitude in the Himalayas. In Kenya millet is grown from 0 - 2400 m above sea level. Proso millet has one of the lowest water requirements of all cereals. An average annual rainfall of 200 - 450 mm is sufficient, of which 35 - 40% should fall during the growing period. Most soils are suitable for its cultivation, except coarse sand.


Varieties in Kenya

A lot of work has been done to identify improved varieties of millet to be grown under different ecological zones of Kenya. 

Some recommended varieties of finger millets and their characteristics (Kenya)

Finger Millet

(c) A.A.Seif, icipe



Variety Optimal production altitude
Grain colour Potential grain yield
(90 kg bags/acre)
Special attributes
"P 224" 1150-1750 3-4 Brown 10 Tolerant to lodging and blast
"Gulu E" 250-1500 4 Brown 8 -
"KAT/FMI" 250-1150 3 Brown 7 Drought tolerant. Tolerant to blast. High in calcium
"Lanet/FM1" 1750-2300 5-7 Brown 7 Tolerant to cold and drought


Examples of finger millet varieties in Uganda

All below listed varieties share the same maturity period of 100 days, potential grain yield of 2-3 t/ha, brown grain, resistant to blast, susceptible to lodging and good for food and brewing
  • "PESE 1"
  • "PESE 2"
  • "SEREMI 1"
  • "SEREMI 2"
  • "SEREMI 3"



Some recommended varieties of pearl millets and their characteristics (Kenya)


Pearl Millet

(c) A.A.Seif, icipe



Variety Optimal production altitude
Grain colour Potential grain yield
(90 kg bags/acre)
Special attributes
"KAT/PM1" 250-1150 2-3 Grey 8 Tolerant to bird damage, leaf blight and rust
"KAT/PM2" 250-1150 2 Grey 7 Tolerant to leaf blight and rust. Grain used at dough stage
"KAT/PM3" 50-1500 2-3 Grey 10 Tolerant to leaf blight and rust


Examples of pearl millet varieties in Tanzania

  • "Okoa" (Altitude recommended: 0-1300 m; grain yield: 2.0-2.5 t/ha; grain colour: grey; days to flowering: 87-92; resistant to Striga spp.; tolerant to ergot)
  • "Shibe" (Altitude recommended: 0-1200 m; grain yield: 1.8-2.0 t/ha; grain colour: grey; days to flowering: 90-95; resistant to Striga spp.)


Proso Millet

(c) A. A.Seif, icipe



Crop Variety Optimal production altitude
Grain colour Potential grain yield
(90 kg bags/acre)
Special attributes
Proso millet "KAT/PRO-1" 0-2000 2.5 Cream 7 Has ability to stop growing during severe water stress and to resume growth quickly when the stress is broken
Fox tail millet "KAT/FOX-1" 250-1500 3-4 Cream 8 -

Proso and fox tail millets can be grown in all areas whereas "Gulu E" does best on coast and moist mid altitude. KAT/FM1 is recommended for semi-arid lowlands and Lanet/FM1 for cold semi arid highlands.



Propagation and planting

Selection of healthy seeds, free from bird and insect damage and diseases, is important to produce vigorous seedlings that could fare well in case of attack by pests or diseases. Prepare seed for sowing by threshing it (if at all stored on the head) and removing all mixtures such as glumes, bits of the rachis and peduncle, etc. This can be done by winnowing and occasionally by sieving. These processes also remove light and small seeds. A fast, easy and efficient method of quality seed selection uses a 10% salt solution to separate good seeds from bad seeds. The salt solution enhances the flotation of light and damaged seeds, fungal spores and light foreign matter. The good and heavy seeds and pebbles drop to the bottom. The floating portion is decanted and discarded and the sunken portion subjected to flotation one or two more times, after which the good seeds at the bottom are rinsed with clean water to remove excess salt. This portion is then sun-dried. After drying, the pebbles are removed by hand picking (DFPV, Niger). 

Early land preparation is recommended. Millet requires a fine seedbed suitable for small grains, to ensure good germination, plant population density and effective weed control. If tractors or oxen are used to open up land for planting, it is advisable to harrow it after the first ploughing. When jembes (hand hoes) are used for land preparation, farmers are advised tobreak large clods to provide a smooth seedbed. Plant before or at the onset of rains by either drilling in the furrows made by oxen plough or tractor or by using a panga (cutlass) for hand planting in hills. 


Spacing and seed rate

If the population is too high at emergence, thin when plants are about 15 cm tall, 2 weeks after emergence. Seed rate (when planted in furrows):

  • Finger millet - 3 kg/ha
  • Pearl millet - 5 kg/ha
  • Fox tail millet - 4 kg/ha
  • Proso millet - 4 kg/ha

For sole cropping the following distances should be followed:

  • Pearl millet varieties: 15 cm between seeds and 60 cm between rows
  • Finger millet, foxtail and Proso millet: 10 cm between seeds and 30 cm between rows.




Millet benefits from intercropping with legumes such as green gram and cowpeas. It can also be rotated with legume crops to benefit from the soil improvement facilitated by these crops or intercropped with other non-cereal crops. Application of farmyard manure at 8-10 tons/ha is recommended in order to improve the soil organic matter content, moisture retention ability and soil structure. Phosphorous should be applied in the form of rock phosphate. Weeding should be done twice, first time 2-3 weeks after emergence and second weeding about two weeks later. 




Harvest takes place 2-4 months after sowing, when the grain has a moisture content of 14-15%. Avoid delayed harvesting, as the seed shatters easily. If millet is harvested during the rainy season with high relative humidity, the grain must be dried to 14% moisture content. In households, millet is usually dried above the domestic fire. Millet is threshed immediately after harvest. The grain stores well for up to five years. Sometimes the grain is mixed with ash or slightly baked before storage. Because of its small size, the grain is barely susceptible to insect attack.

Information on Pests

Information on Diseases

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