Foxtail millet (Setaria italica (L.) P. Beauv.) is one of the oldest cultivated cereal grain and the most economically important species of the Setaria genus. Foxtail millet is usually grown for its grain (see the Foxtail millet grain datasheet) but it is also cultivated as a fodder plant.
Foxtail millet is an erect annual grass, fast-growing, leafy and tufted, 90-220 cm high. It has a dense root system of thin adventitious roots. Its stems are erect, slender and tiller from the base. The leaves are alternate with lanceolate and serrated blades, 15-50 cm long and 0.5-4 cm broad. The inflorescence is an erect or pendulous spike-like bristly panicle, 5-30 cm long x 1-5 cm wide, bearing between 6 and 12 spikelets (FAO, 2011; Brink, 2006).
There are many wild and cultivated types of Setaria italica, which are interfertile. Wild types are annual weeds (green foxtail millet) that are very common in temperate areas. Cultivated types differ in height, habit, structure of inflorescences, number and colour of grain. Moha cultivars are high-tillering (up to 50 culms) with more or less erect inflorescences. They are grown in Europe, USA and in Southwestern Asia, mainly for fodder. Maxima cultivars have between 1 and 8 unbranched culms with large inflorescences. They are cultivated in Russia and Asia. Indica cultivars are intermediate in terms of number of tillers and in inflorescence size. They are grown in Southern Asia (Brink, 2006; Prasada Rao et al., 1987).
Foxtail millet provides valuable hay and silage. The stover and straw is an important fodder in China, and can also be used for thatching and bedding (Brink, 2006).