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                              TECHNICAL PAPER #55
                        UNDERSTANDING CEREAL CROPS II
                               MAIZE, SORGHUM,
                               RICE, AND MILLET
                      Roy M. Stephen & Betsey Eisendrath
                             Technical Reviewers
                               Dr. Glen M. Wood
                               Dr. Dennis Sharma
                                   David Ray
                       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
                             ISBN: 0-86619-272-7
                 [C]1986, Volunteers in Technical Assistance
This paper is one of a series published by Volunteers in Technical
Assistance to provide an introduction to specific state-of-the-art
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 situations.
They are not intended to provide construction or implementation
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 illustrated
almost entirely by VITA Volunteer technical experts on a purely
voluntary basis.  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 editor
and project manager.
VITA Volunteer Roy Stephen is a professor of agronomy at Lake
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.   VITA Volunteer
agronomist Dr. Dennis Sharma is a technical adviser to both the
private sector and government institutions through his company,
International Agricultural Consulting Services.   David Ray has
many years of farming experience, with emphasis on rice, wheat
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 people
working on technical problems in developing countries.   VITA offers
information and assistance aimed at helping individuals and
groups to select and implement technologies appropriate to their
situations.  VITA maintains an international Inquiry Service, a
specialized documentation center, and a computerized roster of
volunteer technical consultants; manages long-term field projects;
and publishes a variety of technical manuals and papers.
                         UNDERSTANDING CEREAL CROPS II
                         Maize, Rice, Millets, Sorghum
            by VITA Volunteers Roy M. Stephen and Betsy Eisendrath
Cereal crops, or grains, include a wide variety of plants that
are members of the grass family (Gramineae) grown for their hard
seeds or kernels, which are used primarily for food.   Grains are
rich in carbohydrates and contain substantial amounts of protein,
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 billion
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 for
the developing seedling; (2) the germ or embryo; and (3) various
covering layers.
Most grains can be grown under a variety of weather and soil
conditions, and most are cultivated in a number of different
regions.  However, oats and rye are most often grown in cool
climates with poor soils, and wheat and barley in mild climates
with better soils.  Maize is preferred in warm temperate and
subtropical areas.  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.   There are
also several plants, like flax, buckwheat, and amaranths, that
are often mistakenly referred to as grains, but are not members
of the grass family.
This paper focuses on production and use of maize, sorghum, rice,
and millet.  "Understanding Cereal Crops I" covers wheat, oats,
rye, and barley.
It is not known exactly how long ago people began to eat wild
grains, but 75,000-year-old implements have been found that may
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 made
it possible for human beings to end their constant wanderings in
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 improved
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, from
its name in Spanish) in Mexico.   Researchers at centers like
these work to develop strains that will produce higher yields,
lodge(*) less, tiller more, resist diseases and pests, and have an
improved nutritional value.
In combination with improved agricultural techniques, these hybrids
have produced dramatic increases in yields.   But there are
limitations.  To achieve the full yields of which they are capable,
they often require irrigation and increased inputs of fertilizers,
as well as of pesticides and herbicides in some cases.
These create further pressures on already strained water and fuel
resources, as well as a need for larger capital investment.
Moreover, a new variety of grain seldom remains under cultivation
for more than three to five years before new strains of diseases
and pests develop to which the variety is susceptible.
Grain crops have the following advantages:
    1. There is a grain crop, and often more than one, suited to
       almost any climate or soil.
    2. They give farmers the highest yield per unit of land of
       any crop.
    3. They can be grown using manual labor, but are well-suited
       to mechanized farming, which makes them significantly
       less 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
       long time.
    6. They are rich in starch and calories, and provide significant
       amounts of protein, as well as some fat and
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
(*) Lodge: the tendency of the grain stem to fall over from the
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
       than legumes.
    2. They must be dried thoroughly before storing, and cannot
       be stored in a humid place.
    3. Their protein does not supply all essential amino acids.
       It must be supplemented with protein from other sources.
Grains as Food
Grains supply over 65 percent of the calories that people consume
worldwide.  In parts of the world where most of the grain crop is
used as human food, they supply an even higher proportion--80
percent in the Far East and Southeast Asia, and over 70 percent
in Africa and the Middle East.
People consume grains in a variety of forms: whole, in porridges
and soups, dried, and ground into flour that is used to make flat
and leavened breads, noodle products, and cakes and cookies.
People eat syrups and oils extracted from grains, and drink beer
and other beverages brewed from them.
The outer hull of most grains is indigestible and must be removed
before the grain can be eaten.   Often the grain is milled further
to remove the germ and the inner layers of the endosperm's
covering.  This improves the keeping qualities of the grain and
makes it more uniform in appearence, but results in major losses
in its nutritional value.
Grains as Feed
When grain is used as animal feed, it is consumed in the form of
seeds themselves, and as pasturage, hay, and silage.   Worldwide,
animals consume about the same amount of the grain crop as
people do, but if current trends continue the animals will soon
be consuming the greater proportion.
Feeding grain to animals being raised for meat is an inefficient
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 food
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, alcohols,
plastics, and paper.
This section summarizes the cultivation requirements and primary
uses of four major grains--maize, sorghum, rice, and millet.
More detailed information for specific grains on specific sites
may be obtained from local agricultural extension services, ministries,
and research stations.
Rice (Oryza sativa) is widely grown on all continents, especially
in warm areas.  There are two general groupings of Oryza sativa:
the japonica cultivars, which have short grains, produce high
yields, and are best suited to the subtropics; and the indica
cultivars, which have long grains, produce low to medium yields,
and are best suited to the tropics.
Rice probably originated in Southeast Asia, and there are records
of its being grown in China as early as 2800 B.C. At present
China is by far the leading rice-producing country, followed-by
India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Thailand.   Ninety-six percent
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 a
number of industrial products.
Rice is classified as an annual, but can be a perennial when soil
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.   Optimum
temperatures are 21[degrees]C-38[degrees]C during the 18-week-long growing season,
Best water temperatures for lowlands rice are 77[degrees]C-84[degrees]C.
(Water temperatures above 85[degrees]C cause poor root development.)
IRRI's Farmer's Primer on Growing Rice reports that one hectare,
of rice plants requires at least 8 million liters of water during
a growing season, with a water depth of approximately 5 to 10
centimeters necessary to control weeds.
Rice does best on fairly heavy alluvial soils with impermeable
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 lowland
rice.  In order to control weeds and avoid yield losses due to
continuous cropping, rice is often grown in rotation with other
Rice is frequently raised without chemical fertilizers.   Bluegreen
algae growing in the water in which the rice is submerged
may fix some atmospheric nitrogen, but for the best yields additional
fertilization is needed.  This is especially true for the
improved cultivars that have been developed, which can tolerate
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.   Yields average
1,680 kilograms per hectare for lowland rice, but may go as high
as 6,720 kilograms per hectare under optimum, conditions.  Yields
for upland rice are lower.  Yields are generally higher in warm
temperate regions with low summer rainfall and high light intensity
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 human
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 plowed 10
to 15 centimeters deep.  The clods are broken into fine
particles.  (Small clods of soil can remain if the rice is to be
broadcast in water.) Dung, sewage, or chemical fertilizer may be
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 kilograms per
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 levees
that are generally about half a meter high and one-and-a-half
meters wide; they hold the water at the desired depth.   The
terrain is smooth, but sloped slightly to facilitate draining.
Growing rice in water increases yields and helps control weeds.
The seed may be planted directly in the field, or it may be
sprouted in a flooded nursery, and the seedlings transplanted
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 raise
two and even three crops a year.   Rates of seeding vary, usually
between 78 and 112 kilograms per hectare though the quantity can
go considerably lower or higher on occasion.
The water is drained away 10 to 15 days before harvest.   The rice
is usually harvested with a sickle or mechanically, with a combine
or binder thresher.  The harvested rice is often dried in
pits, then threshed by trampling or with manual implements.  For
maximum yields, harvest should take place when the grains of the
standing rice have a moisture content of 18-27 percent.   After
harvesting, the rice needs to be dried until this moisture has
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 Pyricularia
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 other
grain crop except perhaps millet, and is attacked by rodents both
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.   Barnyard grass
(Echinochloa), red rice, and witchweed (striga) are major weed
problems.  Both cultural and chemical means of controlling them
are used.
Varieties of rice that can resist many diseases and pests have
been bred.  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
world's population.  It is grown primarily as human food.
The protein content of rice is less than that of wheat or maize,
and it is low in the essential amino acid lysine.   Brown rice,
which has undergone only enough milling to remove the indigestible
outer hull, is the most nutritious form.   Further processing
results in white rice, which has lost the bran and germ.  It
cooks more quickly and is easier to store than whole grain
brown) rice, but is much lower in protein and minerals.   Converted
or parboiled rice has been treated with steam to force
nutrients into the kernel before polishing takes place; it lies
between brown and white rice in nutritional value.
Products derived from rice for human consumption include flour
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 the
world's third most important grain for human consumption.  It is
also widely used as a livestock feed and as a raw material for
industry.  The United States produces almost half the world's
crop, followed by China, Brazil, Romania, Mexico, and the Soviet
Maize probably originated in Central America and spread from
there into South America, and then to North America and the rest
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.   The minimum
temperature for germination and growth is 10[degrees]C or slightly less.
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 500
millimeters or more; it may also grown under irrigation.  Intake
of water is highest during the pollination and early grain-filling
stages.  Adequate 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.   Yields range
between 672 and 1,790 kilograms per hectare, but may go substantially
higher with hybrid seeds under optimum cultivation and
Maize is sometimes grown continuously, but more often is raised
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 to be
planted to maize; it supplies elements that the maize plants need
and improves the texture and organic matter content of the soil.
If barnyard manure is not available, a legume crop may be grown
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.   Soils vary
in their needs, but a rough estimate of the elements removed by
maize plants producing 500 kilograms of grain per hectare is: 32
kilograms of nitrogen, 6.5 kilograms of phosphorus, and 9 kilograms
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 deep, in
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 maize, the
type and fertility of the soil, and the amount of water available.
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 growing
Weed control is an important part of raising maize.   The land
should be thoroughly cultivated before planting, and the crop
should be kept weed free while the maize plants are young.  Cultivation
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 hard.  Then
they are picked from the standing plants by hand or by machine.
Methods and times of harvesting will vary depending on the
equipment available and on whether the maize is to be used as
fodder, silage, or grain.
The moisture content of maize to be stored is very important.
For shelled maize it should be reduced to a maximum of 13
percent.  This 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.   Gibberella
is a fungus that can cause rots in maize; plants infected with it
are comparatively safe for cattle, but poisonous for other animals
and human beings.  Several viral diseases attack maize,
including streak virus disease, transmitted by the leafhopper.
The development of maize strains resistant to these diseases is
the most promising means of combating them.
The husks of the maize help to protect the ears against bird and
some insect damage during the ripening period.   Witchweed
(Striga) can damage maize plants considerably before they have
emerged from the soil.
Dried seed of maize contain around 9 percent protein, 4 percent
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 contents
than ordinary maize have been developed.   However, they have disadvantages,
especially when grown in tropical climates: lower
yields, higher moisture content, and greater susceptibility to
diseases and pests.  Is is likely that high lysine/trytophan
hybrids without these drawbacks will be available in the future.
Maize also contains nutritionally significant amounts of thiamine
(vitamin B1), and yellow maize seeds contain beta-carotene, from
which the body produces vitamin A.   Maize contains niacin, but
not in an easily absorbable form; as a result people, especially
children, whose diet relies too heavily on maize are likely to
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.   Maize
cannot be made into a leavened bread, because it does not contain
gluten, but it can be made into flat cakes.   It can be preserved
by drying, canning, or freezing, and processed into grits, corn-flakes,
oil, starch, or alcohol.
Maize and its by-products are also fed to animals, and are used
in making soap, laundry sizing, plastics, alcohols, and a number
of other industrial products.
Millet is the name applied to several different small-seeded
annual grasses with fibrous root systems and abundant foliage.
They are grown mainly in the same regions where sorghum is grown,
mostly where rainfall is limited.   Millets are often grown as a
mixed crop with legumes, and are frequently intended for use as
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 wheat,
oats, rice, barley, and rye; however, millets lack lysine.  And
their protein does not contain gluten, so porous breads cannot be
made from millet flour.
Sorghum is called millet in some parts of Asia and Africa.
Pearl millet
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 the
Savanna zones of Africa, representing about 40 percent of world
millet production.  A very nutritious flour can be made from it.
It is best suited to warm areas with 38-50 centimeters of rainfall
per year, preferring light showers followed by intense
sunshine.  It can also be grown under irrigation.  Heavy rains are
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.   At the
end of the hot season, around the first rain, the land is plowed
two or three times or worked with a disk harrow.   The seed is
sown broadcast or drilled in rows that are closer when the crop
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 crop.  The
millet is usually hand weeded and hoed.
Pearl millet takes four months to come to maturity, but when it
is grown for fodder it is harvested while the stalks are still
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 pearl
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 birds
are a major source of damage to the standing crop.
Foxtail Millet
Foxtail millet (Setaria italica), also known as Italian millet,
accounts for about a quarter of world millet production.  Having
probably originated in India, it is grown today in India.  Africa,
and many parts of Far East.  Foxtail millet is one of the
fastest-growing and best millets, especially for fodder.  It
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 very
resistant to drought, and is not particular about soil.   It is.
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, including
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 grown
by itself; where it is mixed with other crops, it is cultivated
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 of
cattle or with a stone roller or mechanical thresher.   The rainfed
crop grown by itself yields 450-900 kilograms of grain per
hectare.  Irrigation will double the yield.
Foxtail millet is subject to kernel smut, which can be controlled
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.   Before
being fed to animals, the seed should be finely ground.   The hay
contains a substance that acts as a diuretic on horses that
consume it as their only food.
Finger Millet
Finger millet (Eleusine coracana), also called Ragi and African
millet, is grown in India and Africa, and accounts for 11 percent
of world millet production.  It is a very hardy crop.  It can be
raised where there are 50-100 centimeters of rain; it can also be
grown under irrigation in the hot season.   In India, the rainfed
crop is grown from May to August, or from July to November; the
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 plowings or
harrowings after the rainy season begins.   The crop is manured
regularly; commercial fertilizers are often applied.   The irrigated
crop is fertilized more liberally than the rainfed one.
Finger millet is sown broadcast or in rows.   Sometimes seedlings
about a month old are transplanted to rows 25 centimeters apart,
with 15-20 centimeters between seedlings in the row, and with two
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 maturity.  The
heads of the irrigated crop do not all ripen at the same time,
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 and
between 6 and 11 percent protein.   They are ground into a
nutritious but somewhat bitter flour that can be used to make
cakes, porridge, or pudding.   In Africa, a beer that is rich in B
vitamins but keeps only a few days is made from the germinated
grain.  Under good storage conditions, whole finger millet can be
stored up to 10 years.  This makes it a good famine food.
Proso Millet
Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum), also known as common millet,
bread millet, and broomcorn millet, has been grown as a human
food since prehistoric times.   It has been cultivated in China
for at least 20 centuries. It is still grown there, as well as in
the Soviet Union, India, and Europe.   It is often grown as an
emergency crope usually on poor soils. The only soils that it
cannot grow on are coarse, sandy ones.   It is a short-season crop
that can require as little as 60 days from seeding to maturity.
It is most commonly grown during the rainy season, but is sometimes
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
Barnyard millet (Echinochloa colona var. frumentacea) is grown
mainly in India.  It is hardy and fast-growing.  It can be raised
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 sandy
and marshy areas.  It is resistant to drought and to waterlogging.
The land is plowed and harrowed once or twice, and the seed is
sown broadcast or drilled, then covered by harrowing or plowing.
The seeding rate is 9-11 kilograms per hectare.   Sometimes seedlings
are transplanted.  Barnyard millet is usually sown alone,
but sometimes it is rotated or grown mixed with another crop.
Barnyard millet is not usually manured, and is weeded only as
It takes between three and four months to mature.   The plants are
cut close to the ground, tied into sheaves, stacked about a week
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
Koda millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum) produces an inferior quality
grain, but is grown on a fairly large scale for food and livestock
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.  The
seed is sown broadcast or drilled at a rate of 17-22 kilograms
per hectare.  Koda is grown alone or mixed.  It is rarely intercultivated
or manured.
When the Koda millet is mature, in five to six months, it is cut
close to the ground, tied in sheaves, and stacked for about a
week.  Then it is threshed and winnowed.  Yields are from 450 to
900 kilograms of grain per hectare.   The grain needs to be well
matured; it should be stored about six months before being used
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
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 crop.
It is also a good emergency fodder crop, growing better than
foxtail millet under cool conditions and where soils are not well
drained.  Its cultivation is similar to that of Proso millet.
Little Millet
Little millet (Panicum miliare) in a hardy, quick-growing millet
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 Africa.
It has been widely cultivated there and in Asia for four
millenia.  Today 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 primarily as
animal feed.
Sorghum can be grown at elevations up to 900 meters.   It is
suited to areas where rainfall is low, 30-100 centimeters from
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.   Prolonged
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 temperature
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 four
1.  Forage sorghums (Sorghum vulgare var. saccharatum), also
    known as sweet sorghums or sorgos
The largest of the sorghums, the forage sorghums have soft, tasty
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 juicy
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 carbohydrate,
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 two
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 cure.
It is palatable to livestock, and is good for pasturage and hay.
Sudan grass is often grown as a supplementary crop in rotations.
Johnson grass is grown for forage, but compared to Sudan grass,
it has a lower food value, produces a smaller yield even on rich
soil, and is less tolerant of soil acidity.   It has perennial
rhizomes, so it can sometimes become a pest in fields planted to
other crops.
4.  Broomcorn (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 that it
matures during the dry season, which helps keep insect and mold
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 a
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 drilled in
regularly spaced holes.  The seed is usually covered with 2.5-5cm
of soil.  It needs to be planted deep in semiarid regions.  For
the grain crop, the seeding rate is between 5.5 and 13.5 kilograms
per hectare; for the fodder crop, between 34 and 84 kilograms.
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.   The
highest rates are used under optiumum moisture and soil conditions.
Sorghum is a heavy feeder, exhausting the soil much more than
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 cultivations
to control weeds.  Sorghum is more sensitive to herbicides than
maize, which limits the chemicals' usefulness for controlling
weeds in fields planted to sorghum, though sometimes preemergence
herbicides are used.
The grain crop matures in four to five months.   Mechanical harvesting
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 stored
grain kept under 10 to 12 percent.   Average yields are around
1,100 kilograms per hectare but may range from below 335 kilograms
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 of the
seeds, but the only weapon against others is breeding for
resistance.  Head mold flourishes under humid conditions; it can
be limited by timing planting so that the crops begin to mature
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 the
stem borer, armyworm, earhead bug, midge, and locust.   Stored
sorghum is particualry vulnerable to insects.   Keeping the
storage area cool and dry plays an important role in limiting
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 Asia
is used as human food; that produced elsewhere is used mostly as
livestock feed.  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 it.
(High-tannin varieties are less vulnerable to damage from birds,
which appeals to farmers).  For these reasons, sorghum is less
nutritious for people than maize, and a diet based entirely on
sorghum is very likely to lead to protein deficiency.   Moreover,
when sorghum is polished as rice is, it loses much of the limited
protein it contained and becomes even less nutritious.   Unmilled
sorghum grain can be ground into a flour that is mixed with water
to make a porridge, paste, or soup; sometimes it is mixed with
wheat flour to make bread.  Sorghum flour must be used as soon as
it is ground, because it turns rancid very quickly.   Malt made
from germinated sorghum grain can be used to brew a beer that is
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 digestible.
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 hydrocyanic
acid (also called prussic acid), sometimes in enough quantity to
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.
The overview presented above is intended to give the reader a
sense of the requirements of the various grain crops.   Before attempting
to raise any grain in an area where it is not presently
grown there are a number of preliminary questions that should be
answered.  Further guidance should be obtained from local agricultural
Some of the questions to be considered are:
     1.   Is the climate suitable for this crop?
     2.   Are the type of soil and its pH and salinity characteristics
         known, and are they suitable for this crop?
     3.   Are fertilizers available to meet the crop's nitrogen,
         phosphate, and potassium needs?
     4.   Can the crop's moisture needs be met through naturally
         available water?  If not, is enough water available for
         irrigation? Does the cost of irrigation compare favorably
         with the benefits the crop will yield?  Is the necessary
         equipment available? Is the terrain suitable?
    5.   Have sources of supply been found for seeds. fertilizers,
        pesticides, herbicides, equipment, and anything else that
        may be needed for growing this crop?
    6.   Is enough capital available to purchase the necessary
        equipment and supplies?
    7.   Is the farmer able to invest the time and effort needed
        to grow the crop successfully?
    8.   Has information been gathered about the varieties and
        hybrids that are available? Has a choice been made about
        which plant?
    9.   what kind of erosion control, if any, will be necessary
        if this crop is planted?  Are the resources for carrying
        it out available?
  10.   If part of the harvest is to be kept for later use, are
       storage facilities available that can keep the grain
       cool, dry, and safe from pests?
  11.   Is there a market for the grain or grain products?
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     Britannica. (Macropaedia) (1984).
"Corn," "Food," "Grain," "Millet," "Rice," and "Sorghum." The
     Encyclopedia Americana. (1984).
 "Food." Colliers Encyclopedia. (1984).
 "Grain Production." Everyman's Encyclopaedia. (1978).
 Hubbell, Donald S. Tropical Agriculture: An Abridged Field
     Guide. Kansas City, Missouri: Howard W. Sams International
     Corp., 1965.
Kahn, E.J., Jr. "The Staffs of Life: The Golden Thread." The
    New Yorker, June 18, 1984, pp. 46-88. (about maize)
Kahn E.J., Jr. "The Staffs of Life: Everybody's Business." The
     New Yorker. March 4, 1985, pp. 51-76. (about rice)
Kassam, A.H. Crops of the West African Semi-arid Tropics.
     Hyderabad, India: International Crops Research Institute
     for the Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics, 1976.
Martin, Leonard, and Stamp. Principles of Field Crop Production.
     New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1986.
Poehlman, John M. Breeding Field Crops. Westport, Connecticut:
     Avi Publishers, 1979.
Schery, Robert W. Plants for Man. 2nd edition. Englewood
     Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1972.
Uichanco, Leopoldo B., editor. Philippine Agriculture. College
     of Agriculture, University of the Philippines, 1959.
Vergara, Benito S. A Farmer's Primer on Growing Rice. Manila,
     Philippines: International Rice Research Institute, 1979.
Vickery, Margaret L. and Vickery, Brian. Plant Products of
     Tropical Africa. London: The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1979.
Women in Rice Farming. The International Rice Research Institute.
     Brookfield, Vermont: Gower Publishing Company, 1985.