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What is millet?
Millet is a cereal crop. Cereals are plants that are members of the grass family that are cultivated for their grain. Other common cereals include wheat, barley, rye, oats, rice, and corn.
Why is there a need for a millet project?
Our group was initiated by international UC Berkeley post-doctoral researchers who were surprised that millet is not widely eaten in the United States. Having loved it as a staple in their youth, the idea was born to introduce the benefits of millet to consumers here and create an increased demand such that farmers would begin to grow it. Began during the intense California drought, The Millet Project endeavors to communicate the benefits of diversifying our diets both for our own health, and for the health of the earth through responsible land and water use.
What are the health benefits of millet?
There are lots of varieties of millet and each one has its own nutritional profile. But as a group, millets are higher in protein and have more (and diverse) minerals, vitamins, and fiber as compared to other common cereals. Additionally, millet is gluten free, making it a good choice for those with gluten sensitivity.
What are the environmental impacts of growing millet?
Many millets can grow in unideal soils, needing fewer fertilizer inputs than other grains. Additionally, they are drought tolerant crops, having been cultivated for thousands of years in hot, dry portions of the wold such as India. As we add move diversity into our agriculture, we also slow the spread of common plant pathogens that are sweeping through some crops and regions.
As the climate changes, it is important to research and identify the best foods with which to feed our growing population in places with limited water resources and increasing heat. We hope that our current research, identifying the growth and yield of millet under different watering conditions, contribute to this body of information.
What research is the project doing on growing millet?
We are working to identify how well millet grows in the various climates of California. From the foggy and salty soils by the ocean in Bolinas to the hot Central Valley, we have collaborating farmers who are growing millet and recording their yield to identify which micro-climates millets are the most successful in.
Additionally, we have a very controlled study at the UC Berkeley Gill Tract in Albany, CA with five millet varieties and two kinds of tiff. We are growing each variety under different watering conditions and recording the effects on growth and grain yield to identify the most efficient ways to grow these different varieties.
Can I grow millet in my backyard?
Yes! You certainly can. However, harvesting it is more difficult. After you pick the ear, or panicle, you have to thresh it to separate the millet from the chaff that surrounds it. This is not super easy work. Then you have to winnow it to isolate your grain from the chaff.