Pearl Millet
Pennisetum glaucum (Linnaeus) R. Brown
Pocheae (Grass) Family

Pearl Millet is an introduced herbaceous annual in the Grass family (Poaceae). It is native to the Sahel region of Africa from Sudan to Senegal. The species has been cultivated for over 4,000 years and is grown in tropical and subtropical countries world-wide. In occurs throughout Alabama. Pearl Millet grows on roadsides, along railroad tracks, and in disturbed areas. It is an annual with a fibrous root system. Stems are from 3-5 feet in height. Stems are usually unbranched, but tillers (above ground shoots produced at the base of a grass plant) are often present. Prop roots (roots produced above ground and angled away from the stem into the soil) are often present. The stems are green or reddish in color, glabrous, with (usually) upwardly bearded nodes.

The leaves are alternate, linear, and glabrous or pubescent. The base of the leaf blade partially wraps around the stem.

The leaf collar (the area where the blade meets the sheath) is pubescent with upward pointing hairs. The leaf sheath is glabrous or pubescent.

The flowers are produced in a dense spike-like raceme, measuring 1 to 2 feet long.

The fruit is a grain.

Pearl Millet is often grown in semi-arid regions with too little rain for corn or sorghum. It is a major food crop in parts of Africa and India. In the United States, it is grown primarily for its grain which is used for livestock feed (mainly chickens in the US), and for bird seed (the round white or tan seed). It is also used as hay or silage for cattle. It is sometimes planted to stabilize soil and prevent erosion. Hybrids of pearl millet and Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) have been developed. They benefit from the desirable characteristics of pearl millet such as vigor, drought resistance, disease tolerance, forage quality and seed size, whereas Napier grass provides rusticity, aggressiveness, perennity, palatability and high dry matter yield.

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