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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(millet), a genus of annual herbaceous plants of the family Gramineae. There are more than 400 species, which are distributed in the tropics, subtropics, and temperate zones of Asia, America, and Africa. Four species are found in the USSR. One species, common millet (P. miliaceum), is principally cultivated for grain. It has five subspecies— patentissimum, effusum, contractum, ovatum, and compactum. Each subspecies has a different kind of panicle. India and Sri Lanka cultivate P. miliare. Another species, P. spontaneum, grows as a weed among millet plantings.

Common millet is a spring plant with a fibrous root system. It forms a shrub with three to seven culms, three or four of which usually bear fruit. The sparsely hairy culms are simple or ramose; they reach a height of 45–150 cm. The leaves, which measure 18–65 cm long, are linear-lanceolate, downy or naked, and green or reddish (anthocyanin coloration). The inflorescence, a panicle, bears pedicels with two-flowered spikelets. Usually only the upper flower bears fruit. The fruit is a round, oval or elongate grain; its coloration is usually white, yellow, or red. A normally developed panicle contains 600–1,200 grains, with a weight per thousand of 4–9 g. The vegetative period is 60 to 120 days. Millet is resistant to drought, heat, and salt. The plant cannot tolerate acidic soils. Millet yields its best harvests on virgin lands in the year they are plowed. It prefers weed-free structure soils.

One of the most important groat crops, millet is used in making flour and as a concentrated feed for birds and swine. The tailings (the husks and fine particles) from processing and the straw are fed to farm animals. Millet is the oldest cultivated plant; it does not grow wild. It was known in Asia, Europe, and North Africa 3,000 years before the Common Era. The plant has been cultivated in Russia since time immemorial. Between 1948 and 1972 world plantings of millet increased from 102 to 112 million hectares (ha), with the largest plantings in India, China, and Nigeria; the gross harvest of grain increased from 80.2 to 92.5 million tons, with the average yield not exceeding 9 centners/ha. In the USSR, millet occupied 5.97 million ha in 1940, 3.78 million ha in I960, and 2.85 million ha in 1973. The respective gross harvests were 4.39 million tons, 3.23 million tons, and 4.42 million tons, and the respective average yields were 7.4 centners/ha, 8.4 centners/ha, and 15.4 centners/ha. The principal areas of cultivation are the Volga Region, Kazakhstan, and the Ukraine. The best varieties are Saratovskoe 853, Podolianskoe 24/273, and Dolinskoe 86. In 1974, 35 millet varieties were regionalized.

In crop rotation, millet is sown after row crops, (sugar beets, potatoes), winter crops, crops planted on fertilized fallows, or pulse crops. Organic fertilizers (20–40 tons/ha of manure or compost) and mineral fertilizers (30–40 kg/ha of N, 45–60 kg/ha of P2O5, and 45 kg/ha of K2O) are applied. The principal sowing method is wide-row, with widths of 45 cm between rows). The weight of seed is 10–30 kg/ha, and the planting depth is 3–4 cm. The best harvesting method is by swaths. Diseases of millet are smut and bacteriosis, and pests include Stenodiplosispanici and the European corn borer.

Other plant species of the family Gramineae are commonly known as millets—for example, African millet, foxtail millet, Japanese millet, and pearl millet.


Kornilov, A. A. Proso. Moscow, 1960.
Proizvodstvo prosa v peredovykh khoziaistvakh. Moscow, 1969.
Zhukovskii, P. M. Kul’turnye rasteniia i ikh sorodichi, 3rd ed. Leningrad, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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