Panicum miliaceum L.Source: Magness et al. 1971
Proso millet is the only millet grown as a grain crop in the United States. Other millets as foxtail, Japanese or barnyard, and pearlmillet or cattail are grown mainly for forage or pasture and are listed under Grass Forage and Pasture Crops.
Proso millet is probably grown on not more than 150,000 acres in the United States, though actual data are unavailable. Most production is in the Northern Plains and other short-growing season areas. In Asia, Africa and Russia, grain millet is an important food crop, but is less important than formerly as other adapted grains are more desirable. Since proso millet will mature a grain crop in from 60 to 75 days after seeding, and is low in moisture requirement, it will produce some food or feed where other grain crops would fail.
Millets have been grown in Asia and North Africa since prehistoric times, and little is known of their origin. They probably came originally from Eastern or Central Asia. They were important in Europe during the middle ages before corn and potatoes were known there. Today they are of minor importance in Western Europe.
Proso millet grows up to four feet with stout, erect stems which may spread at the base. Stems and leaves are hairy. The panicle or flower head is rather open, like oats, and drooping. In different varieties it may be spreading, one-sided, or erect. The branches in the panicle bear spikelets only toward the tips. Each spikelet has two unequal glumes and a single flower. The flower consists of the lemma and palea, enclosing the stamens and pistil. As in oats, the lemma and palea adhere to and are a part of the threshed grain. The ripened seed is small (about 2 mm. wide and 2.5 mm. long), ovate and rounded on the dorsal side. Seeds range in color from white or cream to yellow, brown or nearly black. The seeds do not mature uniformly and shattering of those first ripe often occurs before others are mature. For this reason the crop is usually mowed and cured in the swath or windrow prior to combining.
As food in Old World countries, millet is used as a meal for making baked foods, as a paste from pounded wet seeds or as boiled gruel. As feed the grain is eaten readily by livestock, and is equal to or superior to oats in feed value. It should be ground for livestock feed. It is also used in poultry and bird seed mixes.
A related species is brown top millet, P. ramosum L.,-Brachiaria ramosa (L.) Stapf., which is sometimes seeded for game bird pasturage in the Southeastern States.