Foxtail millet, scientific name Setaria italica (synonym Panicum italicum L.), is an annual grass grown for human food. It is the second-most widely planted species of millet, and the most grown millet species in Asia. The oldest evidence of foxtail millet cultivation was found along the ancient course of the Yellow River in Cishan, China, carbon dated to be from around 8,000 years before present.[1][2][3] Foxtail millet has also been grown in India since antiquity.[citation needed]

Foxtail millet
Immature seedhead
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Panicoideae
Genus: Setaria
S. italica
Binomial name
Setaria italica
(L.) P. Beauvois

See § Synonyms

Foxtail millet (Setaria italica) seeds, India.

Other names for the species include dwarf setaria, foxtail bristle-grass, giant setaria, green foxtail, Italian millet, German millet, and Hungarian millet.[4][5]



Foxtail millet is an annual grass with slim, vertical, leafy stems which can reach a height of 120–200 cm (3 ft 11 in – 6 ft 7 in).

The seedhead is a dense, hairy panicle 5–30 cm (2 in – 1 ft 0 in) long.

The small seeds, around 2 millimetres (332 in) in diameter, are encased in a thin, papery hull which is easily removed in threshing. Seed color varies greatly between varieties.




  • Alopecurus caudatus Thunb.
  • Chaetochloa germanica (Mill.) Smyth
  • Chaetochloa italica (L.) Scribn.
  • Chamaeraphis italica (L.) Kuntze
  • Echinochloa erythrosperma Roem. & Schult.
  • Echinochloa intermedia Roem. & Schult.
  • Ixophorus italicus (L.) Nash
  • Oplismenus intermedius (Hornem.) Kunth
  • Panicum aegyptiacum Roem. & Schult. nom. inval.
  • Panicum asiaticum Schult. & Schult.f. nom. inval.
  • Panicum chinense Trin.
  • Panicum compactum Kit. nom. inval.
  • Panicum elongatum Salisb. nom. illeg.
  • Panicum erythrospermum Vahl ex Hornem.
  • Panicum germanicum Mill.
  • Panicum germanicum Willd. nom. illeg.
  • Panicum globulare (J.Presl) Steud.
  • Panicum glomeratum Moench nom. illeg.
  • Panicum intermedium Vahl ex Hornem.
  • Panicum italicum L.
  • Panicum itieri (Delile) Steud.
  • Panicum macrochaetum (Jacq.) Link
  • Panicum maritimum Lam.
  • Panicum melfrugum Schult. & Schult.f. nom. inval.
  • Panicum miliaceum Blanco nom. illeg.
  • Panicum moharicum (Alef.) E.H.L.Krause
  • Panicum panis (Jess.) Jess.
  • Panicum pumilum Link nom. illeg.
  • Panicum serotinum Trin. nom. inval.
  • Panicum setaceum Trin. nom. inval.
  • Panicum setosum Trin. nom. inval.
  • Panicum sibiricum Roem. & Schult. nom. inval.
  • Panicum vulgare Wallr. nom. illeg.
  • Paspalum germanicum (Mill.) Baumg.
  • Penicillaria italica (L.) Oken
  • Pennisetum erythrospermum (Vahl ex Hornem.) Jacq.
  • Pennisetum germanicum (Mill.) Baumg.
  • Pennisetum italicum (L.) R.Br.
  • Pennisetum macrochaetum J.Jacq.
  • Setaria asiatica Rchb. nom. inval.
  • Setaria californica Kellogg
  • Setaria compacta Schur nom. inval.
  • Setaria erythrosperma (Vahl ex Hornem.) Spreng.
  • Setaria erythrosperma Hornem. ex Rchb. nom. inval.
  • Setaria flavida Hornem. ex Rchb. nom. inval.
  • Setaria germanica (Mill.) P.Beauv.
  • Setaria globulare J. Presl
  • Setaria globularis J.Presl
  • Setaria itieri Delile
  • Setaria japonica Pynaert
  • Setaria macrochaeta (Jacq.) Schult.
  • Setaria maritima (Lam.) Roem. & Schult.
  • Setaria melinis Link ex Steud.
  • Setaria moharica Menabde & Erizin
  • Setaria multiseta Dumort.
  • Setaria pachystachya Borbás nom. illeg.
  • Setaria panis Jess.
  • Setaria persica Rchb. nom. inval.
  • Setaria violacea Hornem. ex Rchb. nom. inval.
  • Setariopsis italica (L.) Samp.

Common names for foxtail millet in other languages spoken in the countries where it is cultivated include:

  • Assamese: কণী ধান (koni dhaan)
  • Bengali: কাওন দানা (kaon dana)
  • Hindi: कांगणी (Kangni)
  • Georgian: ღომი (ghomi)
  • Mingrelian: ღუმუ (ghum') or ჩხვერი (chkhver')
  • Gujarati: kang
  • Gurung : Tohro
  • Japanese: awa ()
  • Javanese: jawawut [7]
  • Kashmiri: pinga[8]
  • Kannada: ನವಣೆ (navane) or ನವಣಕ್ಕಿ (navanakki)
  • Korean: jo (). The grain obtained from it is called jopsal (좁쌀), a word that is commonly used in Korean as a metaphor for pettiness or innumerable small things (such as bumps of a skin rash)
  • Malay: sekoi,[9] jawawut[10]
  • Malayalam: തിന (thina)
  • Mandarin Chinese: su (粟). Also called xiǎomǐ (小米), which is the term commonly used for the grain after it has been husked (husks have been removed); unhusked grain is called guzi (穀子) in Northern China.[11]
  • Marathi: kang or rala (राळं)
  • Mising: Anyak
  • Nepali: Kaguno
  • Odia: କଙ୍ଗୁ (kaṅgu) or ଟାଙ୍ଗଣ (ṭāṅgaṇa)
  • Punjabi: ਕਂਗਣੀ/کنگنی (Kangni)
  • Russian: mogar (могар) or chumiza (чумиза)
  • Sanskrit: प्रियङ्गुः (priyangu) or कङ्गुः (kangu)[12]
  • Sinhala: thana haal
  • Tamil: தினை (thinai), இறடி (iradi), ஏனல் (enal), கங்கு (kangu), கவலை kavalai, or kambankorai; nuvanam (millet flour). The gruel made from millet, the staple of Ancient Tamils, is called kali, moddak kali, kuul, or sangati
  • Telugu: కొర్రలు (korralu or korra)
  • Karbi: Hanjangmilen



In India, foxtail millet is still an important crop in its arid and semi-arid regions.[13] In South India, it has been a staple diet among people for a long time from the Sangam period. It is referred to often in old Tamil texts and is commonly associated with Lord Muruga and his consort Valli.

In Karbi Anglong district of Assam, India, millets have been an integral part of the food system of the Karbis as well as the Jhum fields. Hanjangmilen, Karbi name of foxtail millets have been visible in the Jhum fields in the past. But today it is hardly visible in the Jhum fields. But farmers are now bringing the traditional crop back into their food system which needs little water, grows well on poor soil, is fast-growing and suffers from very few diseases.

In China, foxtail millet was the main staple food in the north before Sung Dynasty, when wheat started to become the main staple food. It is still the most common millet and one of the main food crops in the dry northern part of the country, especially among the poor. In Southeast Asia, foxtail millet is commonly cultivated in its dry, upland regions.[14] In Europe and North America it is planted at a moderate scale for hay and silage, and to a more limited extent for birdseed.

In the northern Philippines, foxtail millet was once an important staple crop, until its later replacement by wet-rice and sweet potato cultivation.[15]

It is a warm season crop, typically planted in late spring. Harvest for hay or silage can be made in 65–70 days with a typical yield of 15,000–20,000 kilograms per hectare (6.7–8.9 short ton/acre) of green matter or 3,000–4,000 kilograms per hectare (1.3–1.8 short ton/acre) of hay. Harvest for grain is in 75–90 days with a typical yield of 800–900 kilograms per hectare (0.36–0.40 short ton/acre) of grain. Its early maturity and efficient use of available water make it suitable for raising in dry areas.



Diseases of foxtail millet include leaf and head blast disease caused by Magnaporthe grisea, smut disease caused by Ustilago crameri, and green ear caused by Sclerospora graminicola. The unharvested crop is also susceptible to attack by birds and rodents. Insect pests include Atherigona atripalpis, the foxtail millet shoot fly.[16]



Insect pests include:[17]

Leaf feeders
Earhead feeders

History and domestication


The wild ancestor of foxtail millet has been securely identified as Setaria viridis, which is interfertile with foxtail millet; wild or weedy forms of foxtail millet also exist. Zohary and Hopf note that the primary difference between the wild and cultivated forms is "their seed dispersal biology. Wild and weedy forms shatter their seed while the cultivars retain them."[18] The reference genome for foxtail millet was completed in 2012.[13][19][20] Genetic comparisons also confirm that S. viridis is the antecedent of S. italica.[13]

The earliest evidence of the cultivation of this grain comes from the Peiligang culture of China, which also cultivated Panicum miliaceum, but foxtail millet became the predominant grain only with the Yangshao culture.[18] More recently, the Cishan culture of China has been identified as the earliest to domesticate foxtail millet around 6500–5500 BC.[21][3]

The earliest evidence for foxtail millet cultivation outside of its native distribution is at Chengtoushan in the Middle Yangtze River region, dating to around 4000 BC.[14] In southern China, foxtail millet reached the Chengdu Plain (Baodun) at around 2700 BC[22] and Guangxi (near the Vietnamese border) at around 3000 BC.[14] Foxtail millet also reached Taiwan (Nankuanli, Dapenkeng culture) at around 2800 BC[23] and the Tibetan Plateau (Karuo) at around 3000 BC.[14]

Foxtail millet likely reached Southeast Asia via multiple routes.[14] The earliest evidence for foxtail millet in Southeast Asia comes from various sites in the Khao Wong Prachan Valley in central Thailand, with the site at Non Pa Wai providing the earliest date with direct AMS dating to around 2300 BC.[14][24]

The earliest evidence for foxtail millet in East Siberia comes from the archaeological site at Krounovka 1 in Primorsky Krai, dating to around 3620–3370 BC.[13][25] The earliest direct evidence for foxtail millet in Korea come from Dongsam-dong Shell Midden, a Jeulmun site in southern Korea, with a direct AMS date of around 3,360 BC.[13][26] In Japan, the earliest evidence for foxtail millet comes from the Jōmon site at Usujiri in Hokkaido, dating to around 4,000 BP.[13]

Foxtail millet arrived in Europe later; carbonized seeds first appear in the second millennium BC in central Europe. The earliest definite evidence for its cultivation in the Near East is at the Iron Age levels at Tille Hoyuk in Turkey, with an uncorrected radiocarbon date of about 600 BC.[18]

Agronomic genetics


As with some other cereals the waxy gene contributes to glutinousness.[3] The wild relative Setaria viridis provides genetic resources useful for foxtail breeding.[27][28]

One study found that – for the rabi crop in Tamil Nadu – breeding for foxtail yield should begin from germplasm with the most productive tillers, medium panicle length and medium duration.[29][30][31]


  1. ^ Houyuan Lu; et al. (2009), Earliest domestication of common millet (Panicum miliaceum) in East Asia extended to 10,000 years ago, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Our analytical results of both phytoliths and biomolecular components have established that the earliest cereal remains stored in the Cishan Neolithic sites, during ca. 10,300–8,700 cal yr BP, are not foxtail millet, but only common millet. After 8,700 cal yr BP, the grain crops gradually contained 0.4–2.8% foxtail millet .
  2. ^ Ian S Hornsey (2012). Alcohol and its Role in the Evolution of Human Society. pp. 254–256 (chapter 4.7.3).
  3. ^ a b c Purugganan, Michael D.; Fuller, Dorian Q. (2009). "The nature of selection during plant domestication". Nature. 457 (7231). Nature Research: 843–848. Bibcode:2009Natur.457..843P. doi:10.1038/nature07895. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 19212403. S2CID 205216444.
  4. ^ "Setaria italica". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  5. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  6. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  7. ^ Supomno, S. "Chapter 15. Indic Transformation: The Sanskritization of Jawa and the Javanization of the Bharata" (PDF). The Austronesians - ANU Press. ANU Press. p. 331. Retrieved 5 Dec 2021.
  8. ^ "A dictionary of the Kashmiri language". 1932.
  9. ^ "Carian Umum - Sekoi". Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu - PRPM. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka - DBP. Retrieved 5 Dec 2021.
  10. ^ "Carian Umum - Jawawut". Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu - PRPM. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka - DBP. Retrieved 5 Dec 2021.
  11. ^ Lillian M. Li (2010). Fighting Famine in North China: State, Market, and Environmental Decline, 1690s-1990s. Stanford University Press. pp. 93–94. ISBN 978-0804771818.
  12. ^ Monier Williams (1899). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary Etymologically and Philologically Arranged with Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Diao, Xianmin; Jia, Guanqing (2017). "Origin and Domestication of Foxtail Millet". In Doust, Andrew; Xianmin Diao (eds.). Genetics and Genomics of Setaria. Plant Genetics and Genomics: Crops and Models. Vol. 19. pp. 61–72. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-45105-3_4. ISBN 978-3-319-45103-9. ISSN 2363-9601.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Castillo, Cristina (2010). "Still too fragmentary and dependent upon chance? Advances in the study of early Southeast Asian archaeobotany". In Bellina, Bérénice (ed.). 50 Years of Archaeology in Southeast Asia. River Books. ISBN 978-6167339023.
  15. ^ Sheahan, C.M. "Plant guide for foxtail millet (Setaria italica)" (PDF). USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Cape May Plant Materials Center. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  16. ^ Kalaisekar, A.; Padmaja, P.G.; Bhagwat, V.R.; Patil, J.V. (2017). Insect Pests of Millets: Systematics, Bionomics, and Management. Academic Press (AP). ISBN 978-0-12-804243-4.
  17. ^ Kalaisekar, A (2017). Insect pests of millets: systematics, bionomics, and management. London: Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-12-804243-4. OCLC 967265246.
  18. ^ a b c Zohary, Daniel; Hopf, Maria, eds. (2000). Domestication of Plants in the Old World (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press (OUP). pp. 86–88. ISBN 978-0198503569.
  19. ^ Zhang, Gengyun; Liu, Xin; Quan, Zhiwu; et al. (2012). "Genome sequence of foxtail millet (Setaria italica) provides insights into grass evolution and biofuel potential". Nature Biotechnology. 30 (6): 549–554. doi:10.1038/nbt.2195. ISSN 1087-0156. PMID 22580950.
  20. ^ Bennetzen, Jeffrey L; Schmutz, Jeremy; Wang, Hao; et al. (2012). "Reference genome sequence of the model plant Setaria" (PDF). Nature Biotechnology. 30 (6): 555–561. doi:10.1038/nbt.2196. ISSN 1087-0156. PMID 22580951. S2CID 4003879.
  21. ^ Stevens, C. J.; Murphy, C.; Roberts, R.; et al. (2016). "Between China and South Asia: A Middle Asian corridor of crop dispersal and agricultural innovation in the Bronze Age". The Holocene. 26 (10): 1541–1555. Bibcode:2016Holoc..26.1541S. doi:10.1177/0959683616650268. ISSN 0959-6836. PMC 5125436. PMID 27942165.
  22. ^ Guedes, Jade d'Alpoim; et al. (2013). "Site of Baodun yields earliest evidence for the spread of rice and foxtail millet agriculture to south-west China". Antiquity. 87 (337): 758–771. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00049449. S2CID 55279328.
  23. ^ Bellwood, Peter (2011). "The Checkered Prehistory of Rice Movement Southwards as a Domesticated Cereal—from the Yangzi to the Equator". Rice. 4 (93): 93–103. Bibcode:2011Rice....4...93B. doi:10.1007/s12284-011-9068-9. hdl:1885/58842.
  24. ^ Weber, Steve (2010). "Rice or millets: early farming strategies in prehistoric central Thailand". Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. 2 (2): 79–88. Bibcode:2010ArAnS...2...79W. doi:10.1007/s12520-010-0030-3. S2CID 140535295.
  25. ^ Kuzmin, Yaroslav V. (2013). "The beginnings of prehistoric agriculture in the Russian Far East: Current evidence and concepts". Documenta Praehistorica. 40: 1–12. doi:10.4312/dp.40.1.
  26. ^ Crawford, Gary W.; Lee, Gyoung-Ah (2015). "Agricultural origins in the Korean Peninsula". Antiquity. 77 (295): 87–95. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00061378. ISSN 0003-598X. S2CID 163060564.
  27. ^ Sun, Yanqing; Shang, Lianguang; Zhu, Qian-Hao; Fan, Longjiang; Guo, Longbiao (2022). "Twenty years of plant genome sequencing: achievements and challenges". Trends in Plant Science. 27 (4): 391–401. doi:10.1016/j.tplants.2021.10.006. ISSN 1360-1385. PMID 34782248. S2CID 244081566.
  28. ^ Mamidi, Sujan; Healey, Adam; Huang, Pu; et al. (2020). "A genome resource for green millet Setaria viridis enables discovery of agronomically valuable loci". Nature Biotechnology. 38 (10): 1203–1210. doi:10.1038/s41587-020-0681-2. ISSN 1087-0156. PMC 7536120. PMID 33020633. S2CID 222151529.
  29. ^ Lata, Charu; Gupta, Sarika; Prasad, Manoj (2012). "Foxtail millet: a model crop for genetic and genomic studies in bioenergy grasses". Critical Reviews in Biotechnology. 33 (3): 328–343. doi:10.3109/07388551.2012.716809. ISSN 0738-8551. PMID 22985089.
  30. ^ Ingle, Krishnananda P.; Suprasanna, P; Narkhede, Gopal Wasudeo; Ceasar, Antony; Abdi, Gholamreza; Raina, Aamir; Moharil, M. P.; Singh, Atul (2022). "Biofortified foxtail millet: towards a more nourishing future". Plant Growth Regulation. 99 (1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 25–34. doi:10.1007/s10725-022-00900-2. ISSN 0167-6903.
  31. ^ Nirmalakumari, A.; Vetriventhan, Mani (2010). "Characterization of foxtail millet germplasm collections for yield contributing traits". Electronic Journal of Plant Breeding. 1 (2): 140–147. ISSN 0975-928X. S2CID 82737674.