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Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum), forage


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Common names 

Proso millet, common millet, broomtail millet, hog millet, white millet, broomcorn millet [English]; mijo común [Spanish]; millet commun, millet blanc [French]; kê Proso [Vietnamese]; Rispenhirse [German]; miglio [Italian]; 黍 [Chinese]; चेना [Hindi]; キビ [Japanese]; Просо обыкновенное [Russian]


Leptoloma miliacea (L.) Smyth; Milium esculentum Moench; Milium paniceum Mill.; Panicum asperrimum Fischer ex Jacq.; Panicum densepilosum Steud.; Panicum miliaceum Blanco, nom. illeg., non Panicum miliaceum L.; Panicum miliaceum Walter, nom. illeg., non Panicum miliaceum L.; Panicum miliaceum var. miliaceum; Panicum milium Pers. (Quattrocchi, 2006)


The proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) is a cereal plant cultivated for its grain, mostly in Asia and North America. It is a warm-season grass with a short growing season and low moisture requirement that is capable of producing food or feed where other grain crops would fail (Baltensperger et al., 1995; Berglund, 2007). Proso millet is an erect annual grass up to 1.2-1.5 m tall, usually free-tillering and tufted, with a rather shallow root system. Its stems are cylindrical, simple or sparingly branched, with simple alternate and hairy leaves. The inflorescence is a slender panicle with solitary spikelets. The fruit is a small caryopsis (grain), broadly ovoid, up to 3 mm x 2 mm, smooth, variously coloured but often white, and shedding easily (Kaume, 2006).

While mostly cultivated for its grain, proso millet produces enough plant material to be considered a forage crop. However, proso millet has a lower leaf-to-stem ratio than plants such as foxtail millet (Setaria italica), which generally causes it to be of lower quality. In the USA, it usually gives a lower forage yield than foxtail millet, and farmers generally prefer to grow the latter species (Baltensperger et al., 1995). The forage quality of the straw is poor, and in India it is more often used for bedding than for cattle. The straw is also made into brooms (Kaume, 2006). Panicum miliaceum may be a useful catch crop for emergency fodder (Göhl, 1982).


Panicum miliaceum has been cultivated in eastern and central Asia for more than 5000 years. It later spread into Europe and has been found in agricultural settlements dating back about 3000 years. Panicum miliaceum is the Roman milium and the true historical millet. It was introduced into North America in the 16th century. Its popularity declined in Europe and the United States after the introduction of the potato and maize. It remains cultivated for human consumption mainly in eastern and central Asia, and to a lesser extent in eastern Europe (Russia, Danube region) and from western Asia to Pakistan and India. Panicum miliaceum is occasionally grown in other parts of Europe, Asia and in North America, mainly as a source of feed for pet birds and poultry, and as fodder. In Africa, it is cultivated in Ethiopia, eastern Kenya, Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. It is widely naturalized, and is sometimes invasive, e.g. in the United States and Russia (Kaume, 2006).

Panicum miliaceum is primarily a crop of temperate regions but it is very adaptable and can be grown in climates which are too hot and dry, and on soils which are too shallow and poor for successful cultivation of other cereals. It is cultivated further North than any other millet, the limit being the June isotherm of 17°C and the July isotherm of 20°C. Cultivation as a grain crop occurs up to an altitude of 3000 m in the Himalayas. It is susceptible to frost. Panicum miliaceum has one of the lowest water requirements of all cereals. An average annual rainfall of 200-450 mm is sufficient, of which 35-40% should fall during the growing period. Most soils are suitable for proso millet, except coarse sand (Kaume, 2006).

Forage management 

Panicum miliaceum matures quickly, in 45-100 days. The vegetative phase is usually completed 16-20 days after sowing. From then it takes 20-25 days to flowering of the main culm, but this period is somewhat shorter at higher temperatures. The period from flowering to grain maturity has a duration of about 20-30 days, and is almost constant among cultivars. At grain maturity the lower part of the inflorescence as well as the stem and leaves are still green (Kaume, 2006). As a rotation crop, proso millet has the advantage of enhancing weed control, especially with winter annual grasses in winter wheat (Baltensperger et al., 1995). In North America, DM yields of proso millet forage had considerable year to year yield variability and are in the 5.5-7.4 t/ha range (Lang, 2001; McCartney et al., 2009).

Proso millet forage should be harvested soon after the seed begins to fill to avoid loss of seed during harvest (Baltensperger et al., 1995). Proso millet cut for hay should be harvested when the crop is in the boot to milk stage (Berglund, 2007). Proso millet rarely provides sufficient regrowth to economically justify another hay harvest, and the regrowth should be utilized by grazing (Lang, 2001).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Information about the composition and main nutritional attributes of proso millet forage is scarce and not very reliable due to poor identification of the forages in the literature. The protein content in the hay and fresh forage seems to be rather low (about 10% DM) with values as low as 5% DM and as high as 17% DM (or higher: a value of 23% DM has been reported for pre-boot, spring-seeded proso millet in Canada; McCartney et al., 2009). One report states that proso millet straw is of better quality than oat straw (Berglund, 2007), but available protein values are in the same range as other cereal straws. Fibre content is generally high (ADF more than 30% DM), but, again, literature data are extremely variable. Lignin content is low (5-6% DM) even in the straw.

Potential constraints 

Irritation caused by hairs and awns

Proso millet is not extensively used for forage because the hairs on the stems and leaves cause irritation to livestock (Baltensperger et al., 1995). In Mongolia, oral injuries (stomatitis) and head fistulae caused by the awns carried on the spikes were common in equines fed proso millet straw. Mild cases usually recovered after removal of the awns from the mouth, but severe cases left untreated were fatal (Guang YaNong, 1981).


Like other millets, proso millet may accumulate nitrates under conditions of heavy applications of N fertilizer and limited soil moisture. Because nitrate concentrations are in the lower 15 cm, it is recommended to leave a high stubble height when harvesting a drought-stressed crop. Hay curing does not reduce nitrate concentrations but ensiling can decrease them by 40 to 60% (Lang, 2001).


Some occasional cases of poisoning with proso millet forage occurred in small ruminants, which may have been caused by the presence of steroidal saponins associated with photosentization (Miles et al., 1993; Badiei et al., 2009). In Iran, a severe case of lethal toxicosis was reported in a flock of sheep grazing proso millet. Clinical signs included fever, photosensitization, severe head swelling, decreased appetite and jaundice (Nazifi et al., 2009)


In spite of the problems caused by hairs and awns, forages from proso millet are recognized as palatable and both hay and straw can be very useful materials for cattle and sheep. However, there is very little information about the use of millet forage for ruminants so it is difficult to provide a good overview of these forages. Proso millet straw was found to be more digestible than oat, barley or wheat straws and its EM value was estimated at 8.8 MJ/kg DM (Berglund, 2007).

Beef cattle

In steers, the DM intakes of fresh proso millet forage and millet hay were higher than for oat hay (101.4 and 96.8 g/kg W0.75 vs. 66.2 g/kg W0.75 respectively). In vivo DM digestibility was lower for proso millet hay (50%) than for fresh millet and oat hay (55 and 59%, respectively). The loss of nutritive value during millet haymaking was not very important (Gallardo et al., 1990).


Feeding proso millet hays as 50 or 100% of the diet for pregnant heifers supported slightly greater foetal development than a control ration containing 50% maize silage, 24% alfalfa-bromegrass hay and 25% oat straw (Berglund, 2007).

Nutritional tables

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Crude protein % DM 10.1 5.3 4.6 17.6 9
NDF % DM 73.7 15.1 33.6 81.6 8 *
ADF % DM 36.0 11.4 12.9 48.9 9
Lignin % DM 4.5 3.2 2.2 11.9 6 *
Ash % DM 7.9 3.4 2.7 12.4 9
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 3.6 2.7 1.3 7.9 5
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.6 0.6 0.5 2.2 6
Potassium g/kg DM 13.6 10.3 1.9 29.2 5
Sodium g/kg DM 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.2 5
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.1 1.0 0.4 3.0 6
Manganese mg/kg DM 132 137 13 395 6
Zinc mg/kg DM 85 139 23 369 6
Copper mg/kg DM 14 6 10 25 6
Iron mg/kg DM 154 69 99 286 6
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 58.5 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 55.9 *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Berhane et al., 2006; CGIAR, 2009; Gallardo et al., 1990

Last updated on 27/11/2012 16:24:46

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 86.6 1
Crude protein % DM 12.5 1
Crude fibre % DM 33.9 1
NDF % DM 72.3 *
ADF % DM 39.9 *
Lignin % DM 5.4 *
Ether extract % DM 2.5 1
Ash % DM 6.6 1
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.9 *
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 59.3 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 56.7 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.7 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.6 *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 56.5 1

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Gallardo et al., 1990; Woodman, 1945

Last updated on 27/11/2012 16:22:46

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 94.5 1
Crude protein % DM 3.7 2.6 4.8 2
Crude fibre % DM 42.6 35.5 49.7 2
NDF % DM 80.6 73.2 88.1 2
ADF % DM 48.3 39.7 57.0 2
Lignin % DM 6.9 3.7 10.2 2
Ether extract % DM 1.2 1
Ash % DM 10.4 8.9 12.0 2
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.7 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Phosphorus g/kg DM 0.5 1
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 54.8 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 50.6 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.0 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 7.2 *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


CGIAR, 2009; Ohlde et al., 1982; Patel, 1966

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:44:02

Datasheet citation 

Tran G., 2015. Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum), forage. Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/409 Last updated on October 2, 2015, 15:33

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant) and Hélène Thiollet (AFZ)