Millet, a name given to grasses of several distinct species and genera; it is from the Italian miglietto, diminutive of miglio, from the Latin milium, which in turn is supposed to be from mille, a thousand, in reference to its fertility. The present botanical genus milium does not include either of the plants known to agriculture as millet, but is a small genus in the tribe of panicem, the principal species in which, M. effusum, is very widely diffused; this, which is known as millet grass and spreading millet, grows all over Europe and northern Asia, extending from the Mediterranean to the Arctic circle, and in this country from New England to Illinois and northward; it is generally found in cool and damp woods. It is a slender grass, sometimes 4 or 6 ft. high, with broad, fiat, thin leaves and a spreading panicle; the spikelets, by the suppression of one of the glumes, appear as if one-flowered. This grass is not regarded as of any agricultural value, but in England its growth is encouraged in woods on account of the great fondness of pheasants for its abundant seeds. - What is known as the double-seeded or double-bearing millet grass was formerly placed in this genus, but is now called amphicarpum, a name given upon the supposition that it was doubly fruit-bearing; it has panicles like other grasses, but the spike-lets (or flowers), though perfect, drop without maturing seeds; at the base of the plant another set of flowers is produced; these are solitary at the end of slender runner-like stalks, and are fertilized and perfect their fruit wholly underground.
This plant is found abundantly in New Jersey, and since the cranberry has been so largely cultivated in that state it has attracted much attention, and was at one time regarded as a dangerous enemy to the culture; after the bogs have been prepared and planted with cranberries, this double-seeded millet grass makes its appearance in the greatest profusion, and apparently threatens destruction to the plants; but it is found that it does no great injury, and that the cranberry plants soon take possession of the soil to the exclusion of the grass. This species is A. Purshii, and extends southward to Georgia. Another and much more rigid species is A. Floridanum, very local in Florida. - The true millet of ancient and modern agriculture is panicum mili-aceum. The genus panicum (the ancient name for a grass which is now placed in another genus) is a very extensive one, about 850 species being enumerated; yet but few of them are ranked among the useful grasses, and millet is one of the few that furnish food; this has been so long in cultivation that the history of its origin is very obscure.
It has a strong stem, 2 to 4 ft. high, with a profusion of foliage; its abundant flowers are in large, open, nodding panicles, and the plant has much the appearance of a miniature broom corn; the seeds afford a very nutritious flour. The plant requires a dry rich soil, and when now cultivated it is usually for forage, to be cut and cured like grass before the seeds are ripe enough to drop. The ease with which our farmers can raise crops of fodder corn (maize) precludes the growing of this and other forage crops which are valued in Europe. - Hungarian, German, and Italian millets are varieties of setaria Itali-ca. The genus setaria is regarded by some botanists as a section of panicum, the only difference between them being that in setaria the short pedicels of the flowers are prolonged beyond them into bristles, which in the millet species are in clusters of two or three and longer or shorter than the flowers. In this as in most other setarias the spikelets or flowers are collected in a very dense spike-like panicle, which in some forms is a foot or more long, and usually interrupted at the base. None of these millets are cultivated in this country for their seeds, unless occasionally for feeding poultry, but they have obtained in some localities a place as forage plants.
The most useful is the Hungarian millet, more generally called Hungarian grass (S. Italica, var. Germanica), which is excellent to supplement a short hay crop; it is an annual, of very rapid growth, and on rich soils gives a very large amount of green fodder, or it may be made into hay. If to be cured, it should be cut as soon as it blooms, and before the numerous small bristles of the flowers become firm, as these when ripe and rigid may prove injurious to horses. This setaria is a most variable species, and every few years a new form of ,t is introduced with a new name, winch does not prove essentially different from the old. other species of setaria are known as fox-tail and bottle grasses; they are common in cultivated grounds as weeds. Long before sorghum was cultivated in this country as a sugar plant, a variety of it was grown as Indian millet. (See Sokghum).
Millet (Panicum miliaceum).
Hungarian Millet (Setaria Germanica).