Herbs & Plants

Pearl millet

Botanical Name: Pennisetum glaucum
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Panicoideae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Poales
Supertribe: Panicodae
Tribe: Paniceae
Subtribe: Cenchrinae
Genus: Pennisetum

Penicillaria Willd.
Gymnotrix P.Beauv.
Catatherophora Steud.
Sericura Hassk.

Common Names: Pearl-millet, Gangai, Bajrai, Turn, Bajra
In Africa: gero (Hausa), N!u-khwaba (Khwe language, Botswana), Arum (Borno Kanuri), Uwele (Kiswahili), Oka (Yoruba), mahangu (Mbukushu, Oshiwambo language), sa?o (Bambara), gawri (Fula), babala, nyoloti, dukkin, souna, petit mil (French), heyni (Zarma), masago (Somali), mexoeira (Mozambique), biltug (Tigrinya), biltug (Blin), mhunga (Shona, Zimbabwe), inyawuthi (Northern Ndebele, Zimbabwe), lebelebele (Setswana, Botswana), zembwe (Ikalanga, Botswana), dro’o (Tunisian Arabic), ???? dokhn (Yemeni Arabic) mahangu (Namibia, Oshiwambo)

In Australia: bulrush millet

In Brazil: milheto

In Europe: candle millet, dark millet

In India: (Kambu in Tamil); (“Kambam” in Malayalam); (Bajri or Bajro in Gujarati); (Bajri in Rajasthani and Marathi), (Sajje/kambu in Kannada); (Bajra in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi and (sajjalu in Telugu) and (“bajra:” in Bengali).

In Pakistan.?(Ba’ajra, in Urdu, Kashmiri, Balochi, Pashto, Punjabi, Saraiki); Sindhi.

In USA: cattail millet (Pennisetum americanum)

In Nepal: ( junelo)

Habitat :
Pearl millet is thought to have originated from the Sahel region in Africa (Hannaway and Larson, 2004). It is an obligate upland or facultative upland plant, depending on the region where it is grown. It almost never occurs in wetlands in the arid West, but may occasionally occur in a wetland in the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain, Eastern Mountains and Piedmont, and Great Plains. It grows well on sandy and acidic soils.
It is the most widely grown type of millet. Now it is growing in several countries of the world.

Pearl millet is an introduced, annual, warm-season crop widely grown throughout the United States for grazing, hay, cover crop, and wildlife. It is a bunch grass growing 4–8 ft tall, on smooth ½–1 inch diameter stems, with upright side shoots (tillers). Compared to sorghum, it will produce more tillers and has a woodier stem (Kajuna, 2001). The inflorescence (4–20 in) is a terminal spike, resembling that of cattail. Seeds are cylindrical, typically white, or yellow, but there are varieties with colors ranging from brown to purple. Leaf blades are long and pointed.


Pearl millet’s deep root system grows relatively fast (Hannaway and Larson, 2004), and can scavenge residual nutrients. It is a good choice for low-input sustainable agricultural systems.

Medicinal Uses:
The plant is appetiser and tonic. It is useful in the treatment of heart diseases. The fruits have been rubbed on open facial pimples in order to get rid of them.

Freshly prepared root decoction (ca. 10 ml) mixed with ‘Ada’ (rhizome of Zingiber officinale) paste (ca. 4 gm) and ‘Konjee’
(stale rice water) (ca. 1 ml) is given to cure rural dropsy by the Lodhas. Root paste (ca. 5 gm) is given to children as purgative by the
Lodhas. Mature roots (ca. l0 gm) are made into paste and are applied to cure body and leg swelling by the Mundas. Grain decoction
(ca. 8 ml) mixed with ‘Ada’ (rhizome of Zingiber officinale) paste (ca. 5 gm) and honey (ca. 10-15 drops) is given to promote sexual
desire by the Santals.

Edible Uses:
Pearl millet seed is eaten raw or cooked. It can be used like rice in sweet or savoury dishes, or can be ground into a powder and used as a flour for making bread, porridge etc. The grain is often fermented to make various foods The sweet tasting grains are eaten raw by children. Very nutritious.

Other Different Uses:
Pearl millet is used by livestock producers for grazing, silage, hay, and green chop (Newman et al., 2010). It is the preferred choice for forage when compared to similar warm-season millets such as browntop, Japanese, and proso millet. Pearl millet production for grain is mainly used for poultry feed (Myers, 2002). It is considered equal to or better than typical corn-soybean broiler chicken feed (Gulia et al., 2007). Unlike sorghum, pearl millet does not produce prussic acid or have tannins, so is safe to feed to horses (Newman et al., 2010). Swine have been shown to reach slaughter weight earlier on pearl millet than on a corn diet (Gulia et al., 2007). Terrill et al. (1998) found pearl millet could be effectively used as a substitute for corn feed in goat diets.

Pearl millet has a high potential for accumulating toxic levels of nitrate, especially on the lower 6 in (15 cm) of the stalks (Strickland et al., 2007). It is best to avoid grazing younger plants and to avoid overgrazing. Droughty or cold weather can stress plants and increase nitrate levels. Pearl millet may contain higher levels of nitrate than sorghum-sudangrass after hot weather, however nitrate returns to safe levels 7–14 days after a drought-ending rain (Strickland et al., 2007). Pearl millet feed can be diluted by mixing with low nitrate feeds. Newman et al. (2010) observe that haying material does not reduce nitrate concentrations, but ensiling the forage can decrease nitrate levels 40–60%.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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