TECHNICAL PAPER #55
UNDERSTANDING CEREAL CROPS II
RICE, AND MILLET
Roy M. Stephen & Betsey
Dr. Glen M. Wood
Dr. Dennis Sharma
1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 500
Arlington, Virginia 22209 USA
Tel: 703/276-1800 . Fax 703/243-1865
Understanding Cereal Crops
II: Maize, Sorghum, Rice, & Millet
[C]1986, Volunteers in Technical Assistance
This paper is one of a series published by Volunteers in
Assistance to provide an introduction to specific
technologies of interest to people in developing countries.
The papers are intended to be used as guidelines to help
people choose technologies that are suitable to their
They are not intended to provide construction or
details. People are
urged to contact VITA or a similar organization
for further information and technical assistance if they
find that a particular technology seems to meet their needs.
The papers in the series were written, reviewed, and
almost entirely by VITA Volunteer technical experts on a
Some 500 volunteers were involved in the production
of the first 100 titles issued, contributing approximately
5,000 hours of their time.
VITA staff included Suzanne Brooks
handling typesetting and layout, and Margaret Crouch as
and project manager.
VITA Volunteer Roy Stephen is a professor of agronomy at
Land College in Mattoon, Illinois.
Betsy Eisendrath is a technical
writer and editor who frequently helps VITA on projects such
as this. Dr. Glen
Wood is an agronomist and professor of plant
and soil science at the University of Vermont.
agronomist Dr. Dennis Sharma is a technical adviser to both
private sector and government institutions through his
International Agricultural Consulting Services.
David Ray has
many years of farming experience, with emphasis on rice,
and soybeans. Mr.
Stephen was assisted by Lisa Nichols, Mike
Medernach, and Sharon Spray, students at Lake Land College.
VITA is a private, nonprofit organization that supports
working on technical problems in developing countries.
information and assistance aimed at helping individuals and
groups to select and implement technologies appropriate to
maintains an international Inquiry Service, a
specialized documentation center, and a computerized roster
volunteer technical consultants; manages long-term field
and publishes a variety of technical manuals and papers.
UNDERSTANDING CEREAL CROPS II
Maize, Rice, Millets, Sorghum
Volunteers Roy M. Stephen and Betsy Eisendrath
Cereal crops, or grains, include a wide variety of plants
are members of the grass family (Gramineae) grown for their
seeds or kernels, which are used primarily for food.
rich in carbohydrates and contain substantial amounts of
as well as some fat and vitamins.
They are the staple food for
most of the world's population.
Over 70 percent of the world's
harvested area is planted to grains, for an output of a
and a half tons a year.
All grains consist of the same three basic parts: (1) the
endosperm or starchy interior of the seed, the food source
the developing seedling; (2) the germ or embryo; and (3)
Most grains can be grown under a variety of weather and soil
conditions, and most are cultivated in a number of different
oats and rye are most often grown in cool
climates with poor soils, and wheat and barley in mild
with better soils.
Maize is preferred in warm temperate and
In moist tropical areas, rice is predominant;
in drier tropical areas, sorghum and millets.
These eight are
the most widely cultivated grains.
Less common grains, having
limited production, include wild rice and Job's tears.
also several plants, like flax, buckwheat, and amaranths,
are often mistakenly referred to as grains, but are not
of the grass family.
This paper focuses on production and use of maize, sorghum,
"Understanding Cereal Crops I" covers wheat, oats,
rye, and barley.
It is not known exactly how long ago people began to eat
grains, but 75,000-year-old implements have been found that
have been used for milling them.
Grains were among the first
plants to be domesticated.
This discovery lies at the source of
recorded history, for it was the cultivation of grains that
it possible for human beings to end their constant
search of food. With
the cultivation of grains, they could
settle together in communities.
By 3000 B.C. they were growing
all the major grains we raise today.
Many of today's varieties of these grains, however, are
varieties that have been developed at places like the International
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and the
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT,
its name in Spanish) in Mexico.
Researchers at centers like
these work to develop strains that will produce higher
lodge(*) less, tiller more, resist diseases and pests, and
improved nutritional value.
In combination with improved agricultural techniques, these
have produced dramatic increases in yields.
But there are
achieve the full yields of which they are capable,
they often require irrigation and increased inputs of
as well as of pesticides and herbicides in some cases.
These create further pressures on already strained water and
resources, as well as a need for larger capital investment.
Moreover, a new variety of grain seldom remains under
for more than three to five years before new strains of
and pests develop to which the variety is susceptible.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF GRAIN CROPS
Grain crops have the following advantages:
1. There is a
grain crop, and often more than one, suited to
climate or soil.
2. They give
farmers the highest yield per unit of land of
3. They can be grown
using manual labor, but are well-suited
farming, which makes them significantly
labor-intensive and less expensive to produce.
4. They are easy
to handle and compact to transport and
5. Under good
storage conditions, they can be kept for a
6. They are rich
in starch and calories, and provide significant
protein, as well as some fat and
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
(*) Lodge: the tendency of the grain stem to fall over from
weight of the seed head.
Tiller: capable of producing more than
one shoot from the root of the plant.
The disadvantages of grain crops include the following:
1. They are more
vulnerable to damage from pests and diseases
2. They must be
dried thoroughly before storing, and cannot
be stored in a
3. Their protein
does not supply all essential amino acids.
It must be
supplemented with protein from other sources.
MAJOR USES OF GRAINS
Grains as Food
Grains supply over 65 percent of the calories that people
worldwide. In parts
of the world where most of the grain crop is
used as human food, they supply an even higher
percent in the Far East and Southeast Asia, and over 70
in Africa and the Middle East.
People consume grains in a variety of forms: whole, in
and soups, dried, and ground into flour that is used to make
and leavened breads, noodle products, and cakes and cookies.
People eat syrups and oils extracted from grains, and drink
and other beverages brewed from them.
The outer hull of most grains is indigestible and must be
before the grain can be eaten.
Often the grain is milled further
to remove the germ and the inner layers of the endosperm's
improves the keeping qualities of the grain and
makes it more uniform in appearence, but results in major
in its nutritional value.
Grains as Feed
When grain is used as animal feed, it is consumed in the
seeds themselves, and as pasturage, hay, and silage.
animals consume about the same amount of the grain crop as
people do, but if current trends continue the animals will
be consuming the greater proportion.
Feeding grain to animals being raised for meat is an
use of the crop. It
takes, for example, 4 kilograms of grain to
produce 1 kilogram of pork, and between 7 and 8 kilograms of
grain to produce 1 kilogram of beef.
Nonfood Uses of Grains
The nonfood uses of grains are much less important than the
uses. Hulls are used
as fuel and mulch, and straw is used as a
packing, thatching, and bedding material.
Grains are used
industrially in the manufacture of soaps, solvents,
plastics, and paper.
II. MAJOR GRAIN CROPS
This section summarizes the cultivation requirements and
uses of four major grains--maize, sorghum, rice, and millet.
More detailed information for specific grains on specific
may be obtained from local agricultural extension services,
and research stations.
Rice (Oryza sativa) is widely grown on all continents,
in warm areas. There
are two general groupings of Oryza sativa:
the japonica cultivars, which have short grains, produce
yields, and are best suited to the subtropics; and the
cultivars, which have long grains, produce low to medium
and are best suited to the tropics.
Rice probably originated in Southeast Asia, and there are
of its being grown in China as early as 2800 B.C. At present
China is by far the leading rice-producing country,
India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Thailand.
of the world's rice crop is eaten in the country where it is
grown. Its primary
use is as human food, but rice products are
also used for livestock feeds, construction, fuel, rope, and
number of industrial products.
Rice is classified as an annual, but can be a perennial when
moisture and temperature are optimum.
It can be divided into
upland and lowland types.
Upland rice is not irrigated and not
grown submerged, but is fed by seasonal rainfall.
Its yields are
much lower than those of lowland rice.
Upland rice accounts for
less than 10 percent of world rice production.
Lowland rice is
usually grown submerged for 60 to 90 days.
Rice can adapt to a wide range of conditions.
Is is grown from
sea level to an altitude of well over 3,000 meters.
temperatures are 21[degrees]C-38[degrees]C during the
18-week-long growing season,
Best water temperatures for lowlands rice are
(Water temperatures above 85[degrees]C cause poor root
IRRI's Farmer's Primer on Growing Rice reports that one
of rice plants requires at least 8 million liters of water
a growing season, with a water depth of approximately 5 to
centimeters necessary to control weeds.
Rice does best on fairly heavy alluvial soils with
subsoils. It can
tolerate pH values from 4.5 to 8.5 but does best
on neutral to slightly acid soils, with a pH around 6 for
rice. In order to
control weeds and avoid yield losses due to
continuous cropping, rice is often grown in rotation with
Rice is frequently raised without chemical fertilizers.
algae growing in the water in which the rice is submerged
may fix some atmospheric nitrogen, but for the best yields
fertilization is needed.
This is especially true for the
improved cultivars that have been developed, which can
high levels of nitrogen without lodging.
Some of these dwarf
types respond well to 130 kilograms or more of nitrogen per
hectare. On many
soils phosphates, and sometimes potassium, can
also be applied with good effects.
Rice responds well to green
There is great variation in yields.
They are heaviest when the
rice is grown under irrigation and fertilization.
1,680 kilograms per hectare for lowland rice, but may go as
as 6,720 kilograms per hectare under optimum,
for upland rice are lower.
Yields are generally higher in warm
temperate regions with low summer rainfall and high light
than in the humid tropics, where plant diseases and soils of
low fertility are more common.
Yields per hectare are much higher
for rice than for wheat, but rice is expensive in terms of
effort. Where its
production is most labor-intensive, it can
require over 1000 person-hours per hectare.
To prepare a seedbed for rice, the land is disked, and
to 15 centimeters deep.
The clods are broken into fine
clods of soil can remain if the rice is to be
broadcast in water.) Dung, sewage, or chemical fertilizer
applied, and the surface is smoothed.
Upland rice can be sown broadcast or drilled.
As little as 28
kilograms of seed per hectare may be enough, but 78
hectare is used for a good stand.
It can be grown without irrigation.
Cultivation and weeding are much the same as for any
other cereal crop.
Lowland rice is grown in fields divided by small earthen
that are generally about half a meter high and
meters wide; they hold the water at the desired depth.
terrain is smooth, but sloped slightly to facilitate
Growing rice in water increases yields and helps control
The seed may be planted directly in the field, or it may be
sprouted in a flooded nursery, and the seedlings
about a month later.
They are set 15 to 30 centimeters apart,
with 2 to 4 plants to each hole.
The advantages of transplanting
are that it saves irrigation water and makes it possible to
two and even three crops a year.
Rates of seeding vary, usually
between 78 and 112 kilograms per hectare though the quantity
go considerably lower or higher on occasion.
The water is drained away 10 to 15 days before harvest.
is usually harvested with a sickle or mechanically, with a
or binder thresher.
The harvested rice is often dried in
pits, then threshed by trampling or with manual
maximum yields, harvest should take place when the grains of
standing rice have a moisture content of 18-27 percent.
harvesting, the rice needs to be dried until this moisture
been reduced to 12-14 percent, so that the rice will not
deteriorate in storage.
Diseases and Pests
The most harmful disease in the blast caused by the fungus
oryzae. It attacks
the plant at all stages of its development.
It is both seed- and air-borne.
Chemical control is
effective, but not economic for small growers.
Brown leaf spot is
another important disease.
Rice probably suffers more harm from birds than does any
grain crop except perhaps millet, and is attacked by rodents
when growing and when stored.
It is also subject to damage from
at least a hundred species of insects, especially from stem
borers. Other major
insect enemies include the brown plant
hopper, the green leafhopper, and the gall midge.
(Echinochloa), red rice, and witchweed (striga) are major
cultural and chemical means of controlling them
Varieties of rice that can resist many diseases and pests
Unfortunately, the diseases and pests usually soon
find a way around the resistance by developing new strains.
Rice supplies one-quarter of all calories consumed by human
beings worldwide, and is a staple food for over half of the
It is grown primarily as human food.
The protein content of rice is less than that of wheat or
and it is low in the essential amino acid lysine.
which has undergone only enough milling to remove the
outer hull, is the most nutritious form.
results in white rice, which has lost the bran and
cooks more quickly and is easier to store than whole grain
brown) rice, but is much lower in protein and minerals.
or parboiled rice has been treated with steam to force
nutrients into the kernel before polishing takes place; it
between brown and white rice in nutritional value.
Products derived from rice for human consumption include
and oil, and wine and beer.
The by-products of milling, including
the nutritious bran, are used for animal feed, as is
straw, which is also made into mats and thatching.
The hulls are
put to industrial uses, and serve as mulch and fuel.
Maize (Zea mays), also known as maize or Indian maize, is
world's third most important grain for human
consumption. It is
also widely used as a livestock feed and as a raw material
industry. The United
States produces almost half the world's
crop, followed by China, Brazil, Romania, Mexico, and the
Maize probably originated in Central America and spread from
there into South America, and then to North America and the
of the world. Maize
comes in a remarkable variety of types and
is extremely adaptable.
It grows as far north as Siberia and as
far south as New Zealand, from below sea level to over 3,660
meters. However, it
is a significant crop only where its temperature
and moisture requirements are best met.
temperature for germination and growth is 10[degrees]C or
A mean temperature between 20[degrees]C and 27[degrees]C
during the growing
period usually gives maximum yields.
Maize grows best in areas with an annual precipitation of
millimeters or more; it may also grown under
of water is highest during the pollination and early
fertilization enhances maize's
efficiency in using water.
Maize is a short-day or neutral annual.
It is cultivated in all
kin ds of soil, but prefers loamy, well-drained soil with an
abundance of nutrients.
A pH between 5.5 and 8.0 gives best
Maize takes between 60 and 140 days to mature.
between 672 and 1,790 kilograms per hectare, but may go
higher with hybrid seeds under optimum cultivation and
Maize is sometimes grown continuously, but more often is
in rotation with other crops.
The land where maize is to be
planted needs to be well pulverized, but fairly
compact. It also
needs to be free of weeds and stubble.
This is achieved by
plowing and harrowing and disking two or more times.
It is common to apply barnyard manure to land that is going
planted to maize; it supplies elements that the maize plants
and improves the texture and organic matter content of the
If barnyard manure is not available, a legume crop may be
and then plowed under as green manure before the maize is
planted. These can
supply a substantial quantity of nitrogen, but
often not enough for maximum yields.
Maize needs ample nitrogen
throughout the growing season.
A mixed fertilizer is often
applied before or during planting, with a second application
about 20 to 30 days after the seedlings have emerged.
in their needs, but a rough estimate of the elements removed
maize plants producing 500 kilograms of grain per hectare
kilograms of nitrogen, 6.5 kilograms of phosphorus, and 9
of potash. These
elements need to be replaced if yields
are to remain high.
Maize for grain is usually planted 5 to 7.5 centimeters
rows spaced 76 to 100 centimeters apart.
Between 11 and 17
kilograms per hectare of seed are used.
The rate of planting for
maize varies with the variety and growth period of the
type and fertility of the soil, and the amount of water
Planting rates in drier areas may be about half of those
where rainfall is adequate.
Varieties that mature quickly are
planted closer together than varieties that use the whole
Weed control is an important part of raising maize.
should be thoroughly cultivated before planting, and the
should be kept weed free while the maize plants are
or herbicides, or a combination of the two, can be used.
It is common to leave the maize ears on the plant until the
shucks turn dry and brown and the seeds are dry and
they are picked from the standing plants by hand or by
Methods and times of harvesting will vary depending on the
equipment available and on whether the maize is to be used
fodder, silage, or grain.
The moisture content of maize to be stored is very
For shelled maize it should be reduced to a maximum of 13
usually means that the maize must be further drier
after harvesting. If
the maize is not dry enough, it is
vulnerable to molds.
Moldy maize may develop aflatoxin, a poison
that can cause cancer.
Generally speaking, the lower the
moisture content, the longer the maize can be safely kept.
Diseases and Pests
Maize is subject to many diseases.
The leaf blight caused by the
organism Helminthosporium is common.
It has resulted in considerable
damage in humid maize-growing areas of Africa.
is a fungus that can cause rots in maize; plants infected
are comparatively safe for cattle, but poisonous for other
and human beings.
Several viral diseases attack maize,
including streak virus disease, transmitted by the
The development of maize strains resistant to these diseases
the most promising means of combating them.
The husks of the maize help to protect the ears against bird
some insect damage during the ripening period.
(Striga) can damage maize plants considerably before they
emerged from the soil.
Dried seed of maize contain around 9 percent protein, 4
fat, and 77 percent starch.
Maize protein is deficient in two
essential amino acids, lysine and trytophan.
Strains of maize
like opaque-2 that have much higher lysine and trytophan
than ordinary maize have been developed.
However, they have disadvantages,
especially when grown in tropical climates: lower
yields, higher moisture content, and greater susceptibility
diseases and pests.
Is is likely that high lysine/trytophan
hybrids without these drawbacks will be available in the
Maize also contains nutritionally significant amounts of
(vitamin B1), and yellow maize seeds contain beta-carotene,
which the body produces vitamin A.
Maize contains niacin, but
not in an easily absorbable form; as a result people,
children, whose diet relies too heavily on maize are likely
suffer from the disease pellagra.
Maize can be prepared in a number of ways.
The whole ear can be
roasted, baked, or boiled.
The kernels can be ground into a meal
that is mixed with water to make a porridge or dough.
cannot be made into a leavened bread, because it does not
gluten, but it can be made into flat cakes.
It can be preserved
by drying, canning, or freezing, and processed into grits,
oil, starch, or alcohol.
Maize and its by-products are also fed to animals, and are
in making soap, laundry sizing, plastics, alcohols, and a
of other industrial products.
Millet is the name applied to several different small-seeded
annual grasses with fibrous root systems and abundant
They are grown mainly in the same regions where sorghum is
mostly where rainfall is limited.
Millets are often grown as a
mixed crop with legumes, and are frequently intended for use
cash crops and emergency hay.
In much of the world, particularly
in the United States and the Soviet Union, millets are used
mostly as animal feed.
But where they are most important, in India,
Pakistan, and Africa, they are grown for human consumption.
About 85 percent of world production is used as human food.
Millets are higher in more essential amino acids than are
oats, rice, barley, and rye; however, millets lack
their protein does not contain gluten, so porous breads
made from millet flour.
Sorghum is called millet in some parts of Asia and Africa.
Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), also known as cattail or
bulrush, is the most commonly grown millet in the
world. It is
widely raised as a food grain in India, the Near East, and
Savanna zones of Africa, representing about 40 percent of
millet production. A
very nutritious flour can be made from it.
It is best suited to warm areas with 38-50 centimeters of
per year, preferring light showers followed by intense
sunshine. It can
also be grown under irrigation. Heavy
damaging to pearl millet.
Once it has established itself, it
resists drought well.
Pearl millet grows best on sandy loam soils, but it is often
grown on poor soils, even gravelly ones.
It is the most productive
cereal crop for very infertile and dry soils in India and
Africa. It responds
well to heavy fertilization.
Pearl millet is usually grown in mixtures or rotations.
end of the hot season, around the first rain, the land is
two or three times or worked with a disk harrow.
The seed is
sown broadcast or drilled in rows that are closer when the
is intended for grazing or hay than when it is intended for
grain. The seeding
rate is 22.5-28 kilograms per hectare for the
fodder crop, but 7-11 kilograms or less for the grain
millet is usually hand weeded and hoed.
Pearl millet takes four months to come to maturity, but when
is grown for fodder it is harvested while the stalks are
green. The yield is
450-900 kilograms of grain per hectare when
it is grown alone and rainfed.
The irrigated yield is at least
twice as much.
Green ear, a downy mildew, is the major disease attacking
millet in Africa.
High atmospheric humidity increases the
likelihood of the disease.
Grain smut and the Poisonous fungus
ergot are also common.
Except during prolonged storage, insects
are less of a problem for millet than for many grains, but
are a major source of damage to the standing crop.
Foxtail millet (Setaria italica), also known as Italian
accounts for about a quarter of world millet
probably originated in India, it is grown today in
and many parts of Far East.
Foxtail millet is one of the
fastest-growing and best millets, especially for
produces yields almost as good as those crops that take much
longer to come to maturity.
It is raised both as a rainfed and as an irrigated crop, is
resistant to drought, and is not particular about soil.
however, sensitive to frost.
As a rainfed crop, it should be
sown at the beginning or end of the rainy season.
As an irrigated
crop it can be sown at any time.
but the most common time
is right before the hot season.
It is grown by itself or mixed
with other crops.
The land is prepared by plowing once and
harrowing two or three times.
Because of the small size of the
seeds, the seedbed needs to be firm.
It also needs to be completely
clear of weeds, because young foxtail millet competes
poorly with weeds.
Land where the irrigated crop is going to be
planted undergoes a particularly thorough preparation,
manuring. The seed
is sown broadcast, at a rate of 7-17 kilograms
per hectare in semiarid regions, and at higher rates where
there is more moisture.
Foxtail millet can also be seeded with a
drill. Close spacing
of the plants helps suppress weeds. No
cultivation, besides one weeding is needed when the crop is
by itself; where it is mixed with other crops, it is
along with them.
Foxtail millet matures in 70-120 days.
The ripe heads are cut
and heaped for a week to dry, then threshed under the feet
cattle or with a stone roller or mechanical thresher.
crop grown by itself yields 450-900 kilograms of grain per
will double the yield.
Foxtail millet is subject to kernel smut, which can be
by seed treatment.
Other diseases that attack it include mildew,
leaf spots, and bacterial blight.
The grain needs to be husked before using; it is cooked like
rice, or made into porridge.
Foxtail millet is used as an animal
feed, especially as emergency pasture, hay, and silage.
being fed to animals, the seed should be finely ground.
contains a substance that acts as a diuretic on horses that
consume it as their only food.
Finger millet (Eleusine coracana), also called Ragi and
millet, is grown in India and Africa, and accounts for 11
of world millet production.
It is a very hardy crop. It can
raised where there are 50-100 centimeters of rain; it can
grown under irrigation in the hot season.
In India, the rainfed
crop is grown from May to August, or from July to November;
irrigated crop is grown year-round.
It is usually produced on
loams and sandy loams.
Finger millet does best on a clean, smooth, friable seedbed.
Usually there is one plowing right after the harvest of the
previous crop in the rotation, then two or three more
harrowings after the rainy season begins.
The crop is manured
regularly; commercial fertilizers are often applied.
crop is fertilized more liberally than the rainfed one.
Finger millet is sown broadcast or in rows.
about a month old are transplanted to rows 25 centimeters
with 15-20 centimeters between seedlings in the row, and
or three seedlings at each point.
Transplanting is done when the
rainy season is well under way.
The seed rate for broadcast
sowing is 11-34 kilograms per hectare.
The crop is hand-weeded
once, and cultivated two or three times.
It takes three to six months for the crop to reach
heads of the irrigated crop do not all ripen at the same
but are gathered as they mature.
Otherwise, the plants are cut
close to the ground, tied into sheaves, and stacked to dry.
Later they are threshed.
The rainfed crop yields 560-1000 kilograms
of grain and about 2240 kilograms of straw per hectare, the
irrigated crop two or three times as much.
Finger millet grains contain about 72 percent carbohydrates
between 6 and 11 percent protein.
They are ground into a
nutritious but somewhat bitter flour that can be used to
cakes, porridge, or pudding.
In Africa, a beer that is rich in B
vitamins but keeps only a few days is made from the
grain. Under good
storage conditions, whole finger millet can be
stored up to 10 years.
This makes it a good famine food.
Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum), also known as common
bread millet, and broomcorn millet, has been grown as a
food since prehistoric times.
It has been cultivated in China
for at least 20 centuries. It is still grown there, as well
the Soviet Union, India, and Europe.
It is often grown as an
emergency crope usually on poor soils. The only soils that
cannot grow on are coarse, sandy ones.
It is a short-season crop
that can require as little as 60 days from seeding to
It is most commonly grown during the rainy season, but is
raised during the dry season as an irrigated crop, receiving
one or two waterings.
It requires fairly warm weather and
is easily injured by frost.
Barnyard millet (Echinochloa colona var. frumentacea) is
mainly in India. It
is hardy and fast-growing. It can be
in the dry season, and at altitudes of up to 1,980
meters. It is
grown entirely as a dry-land crop on poor soils, usually in
and marshy areas. It
is resistant to drought and to waterlogging.
The land is plowed and harrowed once or twice, and the seed
sown broadcast or drilled, then covered by harrowing or
The seeding rate is 9-11 kilograms per hectare.
Barnyard millet is usually sown alone,
but sometimes it is rotated or grown mixed with another
Barnyard millet is not usually manured, and is weeded only
It takes between three and four months to mature.
The plants are
cut close to the ground, tied into sheaves, stacked about a
to dry, then threshed.
The average yield is 340-670 kilograms of
grain, which needs to be husked before using.
It may be cooked
as rice is or ground into flour.
It also makes an excellent animal
feed. The straw,
however, is of inferior quality and-is-used
as feed only when no better fodder is available.
Koda millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum) produces an inferior
grain, but is grown on a fairly large scale for food and
feed in India and Africa, usually on light, stony upland
soils. Seeding takes
place at the beginning or end of the rainy
season. The land is
plowed or harrowed three or four times.
seed is sown broadcast or drilled at a rate of 17-22
per hectare. Koda is
grown alone or mixed. It is rarely
When the Koda millet is mature, in five to six months, it is
close to the ground, tied in sheaves, and stacked for about
week. Then it is
threshed and winnowed. Yields are from
900 kilograms of grain per hectare.
The grain needs to be well
matured; it should be stored about six months before being
as food. The stiff
hull must be removed before the grain is
eaten. The straw
generally goes into a compost pile or is used
as bedding rather than being fed to cattle.
Sanwa millet (Echinochloa crusqalli var. frumentacea), also
called Japanese barnyard millet, is grown for its grain in
Africa, India, and the Far East.
Because it is fast-growing,
yielding in six to eight weeks, it makes an excellent cash
It is also a good emergency fodder crop, growing better than
foxtail millet under cool conditions and where soils are not
drained. Its cultivation
is similar to that of Proso millet.
Little millet (Panicum miliare) in a hardy, quick-growing
that can withstand both drought and waterlogging.
It is cultivated
in much the same way as barnyard millet is.
Its yields and
uses are also similar.
Sorghum (Sorghum vulgare or Sorghum bicolor) is native to
It has been widely cultivated there and in Asia for four
sorghum is grown in almost every country of the
world except in those of northwestern Europe.
It is especially
important in China, India, Egypt, and Sudan.
In Africa, it is a
staple food; in other parts of the world it is used
Sorghum can be grown at elevations up to 900 meters.
suited to areas where rainfall is low, 30-100 centimeters
planting to harvest.
Its extensive root system makes it more
resistant to drought than maize, though it cannot tolerate a
drought that is too prolonged.
It responds well to having sufficient
moisture, and may be grown as an irrigated crop.
waterlogging is detrimental.
Sorghum is grown on a variety of soils including light sandy
soils, but it does best on heavy clay loams.
It tolerates both
salinity and acidity better than maize does.
Sorghum can be
grown on soils with a pH between 5 and 8.5.
It needs warm soil
for germination and hot weather for growth; the minimum
it can withstand is 16 [degrees]C.
In semiarid regions, sorghum is
usually grown alone; where moisture is adequate it can be grown
mixed with other crops, most often with legumes.
Kinds of Sorghum
The many different types of sorghum can be classified into
1. Forage sorghums
(Sorghum vulgare var. saccharatum), also
known as sweet
sorghums or sorgos
The largest of the sorghums, the forage sorghums have soft,
stems and an abundant sugary sap.
These are particularly well
suited for forage and for syrup.
Some are highly drought-resistant.
For hot, dry regions, they are the most dependable and
highest-yielding crop for forage and silage.
They make good
pasturage even when other grasses fail.
2. Grain sorghums
(Sorghum vulgare Pers. or Sorghum bicolor)
Grain sorghums have stalks that are not sweet, and are less
than those of forage, sorghums.
The grain sorghums have a
nutritive value that is 90 to 95 percent that of maize; they
contain more protein, about the same proportion of
and less starch.
They are used for animal feed, and for brewing
and making starch, oil, and industrial alcohol.
3. Grass sorghums
Grass sorghums include Sudan grass (Sorghum vulgare var.
sudanense), Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense), and one or
other species. Grass
sorghums are grown entirely for forage.
Sudan grass looks similar to forage sorghum, but has smaller
stems and seeds. Its
yields are smaller than those of forage
sorghum, but it requires even less water and is easier to
It is palatable to livestock, and is good for pasturage and
Sudan grass is often grown as a supplementary crop in
Johnson grass is grown for forage, but compared to Sudan
it has a lower food value, produces a smaller yield even on
soil, and is less tolerant of soil acidity.
It has perennial
rhizomes, so it can sometimes become a pest in fields
(Sorghum vulgare var. technicum)
Broomcorn has long, straight branches that are used to make
brooms. It produces
very limited quantities of foliage and seed
and is little grown in the tropics.
Sorghum generally is planted late in the rainy season so
matures during the dry season, which helps keep insect and
damage to a minimum.
It is important to prepare the seedbed
thoroughly. It needs
to be plowed and harrowed. It is then
tilled, preferably twice, and allowed time to settle to form
firm seedbed before planting.
In dry areas, moisture conservation
techniques should be used.
For irrigated crops, a thorough
preplanting irrigation is desirable.
Sorghum is sown broadcast or in rows, and is sometimes
regularly spaced holes.
The seed is usually covered with 2.5-5cm
of soil. It needs to
be planted deep in semiarid regions.
the grain crop, the seeding rate is between 5.5 and 13.5
per hectare; for the fodder crop, between 34 and 84
The amount of moisture available is the most important
factor determining how much seed is to be used, the quantity
going up as the amount of available moisture increases.
highest rates are used under optiumum moisture and soil
Sorghum is a heavy feeder, exhausting the soil much more
maize does, particularly of nitrates.
It responds well to
applications of manure or compost or chemical fertilizers.
Sorghum planted in rows usually requires two to four
to control weeds.
Sorghum is more sensitive to herbicides than
maize, which limits the chemicals' usefulness for
weeds in fields planted to sorghum, though sometimes
herbicides are used.
The grain crop matures in four to five months.
and threshing are desirable.
If they are not availabe,
the plants are cut by hand and stacked to dry.
The grain is
dried before storing, with the moisture content of the
grain kept under 10 to 12 percent.
Average yields are around
1,100 kilograms per hectare but may range from below 335
to above 4,500 kilograms.
Diseases and Pests
Sorghum is susceptible to many diseases.
The smuts are among
those of the greatest economic importance.
Some are seedborne
and can be controlled at little cost by chemical treatment
seeds, but the only weapon against others is breeding for
mold flourishes under humid conditions; it can
be limited by timing planting so that the crops begin to
as the rains are ending.
Other diseases include downy mildew,
leaf blight, and charcoal rot.
Over 150 kinds of insects attack sorghum.
Important among them
are the shoot fly, which can be chemically controlled, and
stem borer, armyworm, earhead bug, midge, and locust.
sorghum is particualry vulnerable to insects.
storage area cool and dry plays an important role in
damage from this source.
Birds are troublesome to sorghum, particularly
the weaverbird (Quelea quelea), for which there is no
effective economical control.
The very tenacious witchweed
(Striga) can cause serious damage.
Hand-weeding and herbicides
are used against it.
Most of the sorghum grain produced in Africa and in tropical
is used as human food; that produced elsewhere is used
Sorghum grain is, on average, 70 percent carbohydrate,
12 percent protein, and 3 percent fat; it is rich in
vitamin B1. The
protein in sorghum is lacking in the essential
amino acid lysine.
Sorghum protein is also often combined with
tannin in such a way that the human body cannot make use of
(High-tannin varieties are less vulnerable to damage from
which appeals to farmers).
For these reasons, sorghum is less
nutritious for people than maize, and a diet based entirely
sorghum is very likely to lead to protein deficiency.
when sorghum is polished as rice is, it loses much of the
protein it contained and becomes even less nutritious.
sorghum grain can be ground into a flour that is mixed with
to make a porridge, paste, or soup; sometimes it is mixed
wheat flour to make bread.
Sorghum flour must be used as soon as
it is ground, because it turns rancid very quickly.
from germinated sorghum grain can be used to brew a beer
rich in B vitamins.
Syrup is made from sorgo.
Sorghum grain has a hard hull.
Before it can be fed to animals,
it should be ground, rolled, or heated to make it more
Sorghum silage has about the same composition as maize
The leaves, shoots, and germinating seeds of some kinds of
sorghum contain a substance that produces the poison
acid (also called prussic acid), sometimes in enough
kill livestock. For
this reason care should be taken in feeding
fresh sorghum. Young
plants have the highest prussic acid content.
There is no danger from grain, hay, or silage.
III. QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE PLANTING A GRAIN CROP
The overview presented above is intended to give the reader
sense of the requirements of the various grain crops.
to raise any grain in an area where it is not presently
grown there are a number of preliminary questions that
guidance should be obtained from local agricultural
Some of the questions to be considered are:
Is the climate suitable for this crop?
Are the type of soil and its pH and salinity
are they suitable for this crop?
Are fertilizers available to meet the crop's
and potassium needs?
Can the crop's moisture needs be met through
water? If not, is enough water available
Does the cost of irrigation compare favorably
benefits the crop will yield? Is the
available? Is the terrain suitable?
Have sources of supply been found for seeds.
herbicides, equipment, and anything else that
may be needed
for growing this crop?
Is enough capital available to purchase the
Is the farmer able to invest the time and
to grow the
Has information been gathered about the
are available? Has a choice been made about
what kind of erosion control, if any, will
if this crop
is planted? Are the resources for
If part of the harvest is to be kept for
later use, are
facilities available that can keep the grain
cool, dry, and
safe from pests?
Is there a market for the grain or grain
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"Corn," "Food," "Grain,"
"Millet," "Rice," and "Sorghum." The
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Tropical Agriculture: An Abridged Field
City, Missouri: Howard W. Sams International
Kahn, E.J., Jr. "The Staffs of Life: The Golden
New Yorker, June
18, 1984, pp. 46-88. (about maize)
Kahn E.J., Jr. "The Staffs of Life: Everybody's
March 4, 1985, pp. 51-76. (about rice)
Kassam, A.H. Crops of the West African Semi-arid Tropics.
India: International Crops Research Institute
Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics, 1976.
Martin, Leonard, and Stamp. Principles of Field Crop
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Poehlman, John M. Breeding Field Crops. Westport,
Schery, Robert W. Plants for Man. 2nd edition. Englewood
Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1972.
Uichanco, Leopoldo B., editor. Philippine Agriculture.
University of the Philippines, 1959.
Vergara, Benito S. A Farmer's Primer on Growing Rice.
International Rice Research Institute, 1979.
Vickery, Margaret L. and Vickery, Brian. Plant Products of
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Vermont: Gower Publishing Company, 1985.