millet in Mali Millet is a hard cereal that resembles a cat tail with wheat-like stalks growing out of it. Although virtually unknown in North America and western Europe, it is eaten by millions of people, many of them very poor, in semiarid regions of tropical Africa and Asia.
The earliest identified crops in China were two drought-resistant species of millet in the north and rice in the south. Domesticated millet was produced in China by 6000 B.C. Most ancient Chinese ate millet before they ate rice.
Millet grows in a wide range of climates and soils and comes in many varieties. It needs less sun and water than rice and grows well in mountains and semi-deserts where other crops have difficulty growing. Millet was once grown in western Europe, where it was known as the "poor man's cereal." But over time it has been replaced by rye and wheat. It is still raised in Eastern Europe, where it is used for making bread, porridge and beer.
Researchers say that millet can be made resistant to drought and salt; the nutritional value of its food volume can be boosted; and it can be made resistant to diseases and bacteria through bioengineering. Like sorghum and cassava, unfortunately, it receives little attention from agricultural biotechnology giants like Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred International because there is little profit in it for them.
Top millet-producing countries Millet's small seeds can be ground into meal or flour or eaten as whole grain. Because it isn't glutinous, millet flour does not rise and can be made only into a flat, or pan, bread.
Top millet-producing countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) India, 1841508 , 11340000; 2) Nigeria, 1300298 , 9064000; 3) Niger, 506067 , 3489400; 4) Burkina Faso, 209988 , 1255189; 5) Mali, 209165 , 1413908; 6) Sudan, 118674 , 721000; 7) Uganda, 118197 , 783000; 8) China, 114384 , 1551000; 9) Senegal, 107953 , 678171; 10) Chad, 85028 , 523162; 11) Ethiopia, 81204 , 484409; 12) Russian Federation, 56099 , 711010; 13) Nepal, 48782 , 291098; 14) United Republic of Tanzania, 35917 , 219000; 15) Ghana, 32733 , 193840; 16) Myanmar, 24621 , 166000; 17) Pakistan, 24295 , 296400; 18) Gambia, 19913 , 125624; 19) Ukraine, 14957 , 220700; 20) Guinea, 12464 , 323000;
sorghum harvest Sorghum is a versatile grass originating from Africa. A close relative of millet, it is a purplish red grain that grow at the top of a corn-like plant. It requires relatively little water and grows well in mountainous and semi-desert areas. It provides human food, feed grain, molasses, pasturage and broom straw.
Sorghum is grown in 66 countries. It is the leading cereal grain in Africa and is an important food source in Asia and the Middle East. It is used to make unleavened bread, boiled into porridge or gruel, or processed into malted beverages and specialty foods such as popped grain and beer. The United States is the world’s leading producer. Most of sorghum produced there and in Latin America is used as livestock feed.
Sorghum is sometimes called milo. As is true with oats and rice, sorghum seeds are contained in branching heads called panicles. There are approximately 750 to 1,250 seeds in one sorghum grain head. Sorghum such as kafir and durra are sometimes classified as varieties of millet.
Researchers say that sorghum can be made resistant to drought and salt; the nutritional value of its food volume can be boosted; and it can be made resistant to diseases and bacteria through bioengineering. Like millet and cassava, unfortunately, it receives little attention from agricultural biotechnology giants like Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred International because there is little profit in it for them.
Top sorghum-producing countries Top sorghum-producing countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) Nigeria, 947613 , 9318000; 2) India, 926989 , 7925900; 3) United States of America, 872380 , 11998040; 4) Sudan, 440261 , 3869000; 5) Ethiopia, 278592 , 2316041; 6) Burkina Faso, 224560 , 1875046; 7) Argentina, 162997 , 2936840; 8) Niger, 136490 , 1311100; 9) China, 132628 , 2502532; 10) Mali, 108784 , 1027202; 11) United Republic of Tanzania, 105947 , 900000; 12) Chad, 80252 , 685430; 13) Cameroon, 70754 , 600000; 14) Uganda, 50219 , 477000; 15) Yemen, 44759 , 376728; 16) Ghana, 40046 , 330950; 17) Eritrea, 36213 , 302515; 18) Egypt, 35700 , 866948; 19) Saudi Arabia, 30430 , 252000; 20) Senegal, 29802 , 251515;
Oats was the first grain consumed in northern Europe. Believed to be derived from wild oats, it grows well in poor soils and cold climates and has traditionally been used as an animal feed and grain consumed by people in porridge and bread. In the 18th century, Dr. Samuel Johnson described it as "a grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people."
oats Oats are high in protein and vitamin B. Like barely and rye they are rich is soluble fiber, which slows down digestion and helps lower cholesterol. In Europe and North America oats are used to make oatmeal, breakfast cereals, bread, and cookies. Breakfast cereals are made from oat flakes, in which the kernels have been separated from the hulls. Most oats are raised as food for livestock and bedding for animals.
The seeds in oats, rice and sorghum are contained in branching heads called panicles. There are many varieties of oats, and they are classified according to the form and shape of the panicle. As is true with wheat, the plants are resistant to most diseases and pests and seeds are sown are using the broadcasting (scattering) and drilling methods. Freshly cut oats are tied into a tepee-like pyramids and dried by the wind.
The main producers of oats are in North America, the former Soviet Union and western Europe. The average yield is 30 to 40 bushels per acre.
Top oats-producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) United Kingdom, 46185 , 783574; 2inland, 42702 , 1213400; 3) Russian Federation, 35376 , 5834910; 4) Sweden, 34846 , 820000; 5) Australia, 22934 , 1160028; 6) Ukraine, 22343 , 944400; 7) Brazil, 20317 , 238516; 8) Germany, 15155 , 793188; 9) Chile, 11561 , 384224; 10) Belarus, 11416 , 605441; 11) Czech Republic, 4825 , 155868; 12) Hungary, 4016 , 181792; 13) Ireland, 3636 , 176600; 14) Turkey, 3556 , 196099; 15) Latvia, 2821 , 141500; 16) France, 2777 , 471960; 17) Ethiopia, 2518 , 30558; 18) South Africa, 2471 , 45000; 19) Estonia, 2463 , 77500; 20) Norway, 1594 , 327800;
rye by Amakovsky Rye is the principal grain of northern regions. A close relative of wheat, it comes from a weed that invaded wheat fields and probably was first cultivated in a region north of the Black Sea. It appears not to have been cultivated in ancient times like other grains.
Rye thrives in areas with poor soil, limited sunshine and extended period of cold, dampness and drought and thus is an ideal crop from northern Europe, Germany, Russia and Scandinavia.
Rye flour usually contains all the parts of the grain, not just the kernels, which means it is richer in protein and other nutrients than other grains. Like oats and barely, rye is rich in soluble fiber, which slows down digestion and helps lower cholesterol.
Dark rye bread Rye is often made into bread. "Black bread" and pumpernickel are both kinds of rye that are particularly popular in Germany, Russia, Poland, and Scandinavia. Rye flour produces a bread that last longer than other breads. There are tan, brown an almost black rye breads. Most have a malty, slightly sour taste.
Top rye-producing countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) Poland, 221713 , 3448550; 2) Germany, 181516 , 3744245; 3) Russian Federation, 168436 , 4505060; 4) Ukraine, 56758 , 1050800; 5) Belarus, 43182 , 1491847; 6) Czech Republic, 19444 , 209787; 7) Turkey, 17827 , 246521; 8) Sweden, 15625 , 168800; 9) Lithuania, 13248 , 204900; 10) Denmark, 13125 , 151500; 11) Austria, 10138 , 218511; 12) Latvia, 8544 , 194900; 13) Slovakia, 7056 , 80349; 14) China, 6109 , 300000; 15inland, 5597 , 60800; 16) Spain, 4890 , 279800; 17) Estonia, 3 , 65600; 18) Hungary, 4412 , 112493; 19) Canada, 4223 , 316200; 20) Egypt, 4203 , 45000;
Ear of rye Rye doesn't grow as well in the extreme north and high altitudes as well as barley but it is hardier than wheat. Sometimes called the "grain of poverty" because it flourishes in poor soils, it grows thick, tall and strong when planted in areas used for wheat. One problem with rye is that it is vulnerable to attacks from certain funguses and molds, one of them being the source of LSD.
Barely, wheat and rye bear their seeds in spikes. The rye plant is too tough and wiry for cattle to graze on but ground rye and rye bran are used in stock feed. Rye straw is longer and more uniform than other grains. It is used to make paper, stuffing and thatch for roofs.
Leading producers in the 1970s: 1) Russia; 2) Germany; 3) Poland; 4) Czechoslovakia; 5) Argentina; 6) Hungary; 7) Turkey.
Cassava is a nutritious, fibrous, tuberous root. Native to South America and brought to Africa in 16th century by the Portuguese, it comes from a shrubby plant that grows from 5 to 15 feet high, with fleshy roots that may be three feet long and 6 to 9 inches in diameter. Cassava can be identified by their leaves, which have five long appendages and look sort of like marijuana leaves. The cassava root resembles a sweet potato or yam but is larger. It is 20 percent starch.
Cassava, also known as manioc or yucca, is one of the most common sources of food in the humid tropical regions of the third world. An estimated 500 million people worldwide—mostly in Africa and Latin American—depend on cassava for food. Cassava can also be processed into 300 industrial products including glue, alcohol, starch, tapioca and a thickener for soups and sauces.
Two types of cassava are consumed as food: sweet and bitter. "Sweet roots" are cooked like yams. "Bitter" ones are soaked, often for days, then sun-dried to remove a potentially lethal toxin known as prussic acid. Amazon tribes, who have consumed cassava for a long time, remove prussic acid from bitter manioc by boiling. The starchy residue that collects on the side of the pot is dried and made into cakes. The pasty soup that remains can be rolled into balls or consumed as a soup.
Top cassava-producing countries Top cassava-producing countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) Nigeria, 3212578 , 44582000; 2) Thailand, 1812726 , 25155797; 3) Indonesia, 1524288 , 21593052; 4) Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1071053 , 15013490; 5) Brazil, 962110 , 26703039; 6) Ghana, 817960 , 11351100; 7) Angola, 724734 , 10057375; 8) Viet Nam, 677061 , 9395800; 9) India, 652575 , 9056000; 10) United Republic of Tanzania, 439566 , 6600000; 11) Uganda, 365488 , 5072000; 12) Mozambique, 363083 , 5038623; 13) China, 286191 , 4411573; 14) Cambodia, 264909 , 3676232; 15) Malawi, 251574 , 3491183; 16) Côte d'Ivoire, 212660 , 2951160; 17) Benin, 189465 , 2629280; 18) Madagascar, 172944 , 2400000; 19) Cameroon, 162135 , 2500000; 20) Philippines, 134361 , 1941580;
New Crop FactSheet: www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/CropFactSheets/cassava.html.
Widely cultivated in the tropics and raised from cuttings from the stalks of the previous crop, cassava grows well in poor soils and on marginal and degraded land and survives drought and intense tropical sunlight and heat. The average yield on an acre of land in Africa is 4 tons. Cassava sells for only a few pennies a kilogram and thus does not justify the use of expensive fertilizers and pesticides.
cassava roots Commercially harvested cassava roots are fed into a grinding machine with flowing water. The ground roots mix with water and pass through a sieve that separates the coarse fibers from the starchy material. After a series of washings the starch is dried and then ground into flour.
Researchers say that cassava can be made resistant to drought and salt; the nutritional value of its food volume can be boosted; the average yield on an acre of land can be increased; and it can be made resistant to diseases and bacteria through bioengineering. Like millet and sorghum, unfortunately, it receives little attention from agricultural biotechnology giants like Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred International because there is little profit in it for them.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Natural History magazine, Discover magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated March 2011