Foxtail Millet: A Resilient Crop Against Environmental Factors

Foxtail Millet: Climate Change is a change in weather patterns when it lasts for an extended period. Its causes include the emission of greenhouse gases, burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, excessive use of fertilizers and aerosol sprays and many more.

Foxtail Millet: a resilient Crop against Environ factorsThe major effects of climate change are global warming, changing rainfall patterns, melting of glaciers, ozone layer depletion and the rise of sea level.

Impacts of Climate Change in Pakistan

  • Pakistan is going to be the 8th most vulnerable country to climate change in the coming 1-2 decades. Recently, Pakistan is facing frequent natural hazards like floods, droughts, cyclones, low rainfall and having less water storage bodies. These hazards, in combination with susceptibilities like poverty and wrong political decisions, make people more vulnerable to the effects of these hazards and can affect food security.
  • It is an immediate need of time to develop drought and elevated temperature tolerant varieties to cope against the challenge of food security. Foxtail millet is the fodder crop that can withstand the subjected challenges and can control fodders deficiency and malnutrition to some extent.


  • Millets are a group of small-seeded grasses (Family-Poaceae) grown in arid and semi-arid regions for fodder and human consumption
  • In Pakistan, mostly Pearl millet is cultivated on an area of 469000 hectares, producing 305000 tonnes (Economic Survey of Pakistan,2016-17)
  • Millets are mostly grown in Gujrat, Gujranwala, Chakwal, Mianwali, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Rawalpindi, Attock, Jhelum, Hyderabad, Khairpur, Dadu, Nawabshah, Sanghar, Lorali, Khuzdar and Sibbi, Bunnu and D.I. Khan

World Millet Production

Rank Country Production (Tonnes)
1 India 10,910,000
2 Nigeria 5,000,000
3 Niger 2,955,000
4 China 1,620,000
5 Mali 1,152,331
13 Pakistan 30000000

Types of Millet

Pearl millet

(Pennisetum glaucum, P. typhoides, P. tyhpideum,

 P. americanum)

Finger millet (Eleusine coracana)
Proso/common millet  (Panicum miliaceum)
Foxtail millet  (Setaria italica)
Barnyard millet

 (Echinochloa crusgalli,

 E. colona)

Little millet (Panicum sumatrense)
Kodo millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum)

Foxtail Millet

  • Foxtail millet is believed to be originated in East Asia (China), an important food in the Neolithic age
  • It ranks second in world production of millets and cultivated in arid and semi-arid regions of 26 countries including China, Africa, India, Russia, USA, and some parts of Europe
  • It is a short duration (75-90 days), drought tolerant cereal crop, cultivated in dry, sandy to loamy, as well as in saline soils with pH from 5.5-8.33 but sensitive to waterlogging conditions and frost
  • It is a self-pollinating, diploid, C4 annual grass used for food and feed for humans and animals
  • It was recognized as diabetic food, good against cardiovascular diseases and cancer, rich in dietary fiber and protein and low in fat


Kingdom Plantae
Subkingdom Tracheobionta
Superdivision Spermatophyta
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Liliopsida
Subclass Commelinidae
Order Cyperales
Family Poaceae
Genus Setaria Beauv.
Species Setaria italica (L.) Beauv.

Botanical Features

Seed Ovoid in shape, 2 mm long, pale yellow to orange, red, brown, or black in color
Inflorescence The inflorescence is a dense, cylindrical hairy panicle with short side branches bearing spikelet and bristles
Leaves Narrow (30-45 cm long and 1.25 cm wide) and green in color
Stem It has a slim, erect and leafy stem
Root Fibrous root system and produce anchored roots in case of lodging
Plant height 2-5 ft

Phases of Development in Foxtail Millet

Vegetative phase A) Leaf and axillary bud differentiation
Transition phase B) Panicle initiation
C)Spikelet differentiation
Reproductive phase D) Floret differentiation
E) Pollen differentiation
F) Anthesis


  • It is a C4 plant having good water-use efficiency
  • It is a summer crop and utilizes elevated temperature
  • So, Foxtail millet is potentially highly effective in dry and warm climate.

Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits

  • The main components of foxtail millet are starch, protein, dietary fibers, fat, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phenolic
Nutritive value of foxtail millet vs fine cereals (per 100 g)
Item Foxtail millet Wheat Rice
Carbohydrates (g) 60.9 71.2 78.2
Protein (g) 12.3 11.8 6.8
Fat (g) 4.3 1.5 0.5
Energy (KCal) 331 346 345
Crude fiber (g) 8 1.2 0.2
Mineral matter (g) 3.3 1.5 0.6
Amylase (%) 17.5 25 12-19
Amylopectin (%) 82.5 75 88-81
Ca (mg) 31 41 10
P (mg) 290 306 160
Essential amino acid (mg/g of N) in Foxtail Millet
Arginine 220 Methionine 180
Histidine 130 Cystine 100
Lysine 140 Threonine 190
Tryptophan 60 Leucine 1040
Phenyl Alanine 420 L-Isoleucine 480
Valine 430  
Vitamins (mg/100 g) in Foxtail Millet
Thiamin 0.59 Folic Acid 15
Niacin 3.2 Vil B5 0.82
Riboflavin 0.11 Vil E 31
Vil A (carotene) 32  
Micronutrients (mg/100 g) in Foxtail Millet
Fe 2.8 Cu 1.4
Zn 2.4 Mn 0.6
Mg 81 Mb 0.07
Na 4.6 Cr 0.03
K 250 Cl 37
Fatty acids in Foxtail Millet
Palmitic 6.4 Stearic 6.3
Linoleic 66.5 Oleic 13

Dietary carbohydrates help to control postprandial blood glucose.

Polysaccharides can exert an antioxidant effect.

Resistant Starch is a small portion of starch is resistant to mammalian digestive enzymes. It has a significant positive effect on human health and role in glucose metabolism, management of chronic diet-related diseases, mental performance, weight control, a significant decrease in the blood glucose, serum cholesterol, and serum triglyceride.

Protein is reported to have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Fatty acids impart low-glycemic and hypolipidemic effect.

Oleic acid extensively lowers the rate of starch hydrolysis and the complexes formed by starch and oleic acid are more resistant to enzymatic hydrolysis.

Dietary fibers are responsible for favorable physiological effects like laxation, blood cholesterol attenuation by aiding gastrointestinal functions, and blood glucose reduction.

Insoluble dietary fibers could inhibit α-amylase activity and delay the digestibility of carbohydrates and deter the release of glucose, so it helps to improve insulin sensitivity and lower the risk of diabetes mellitus.

Phenolics act as reducing agents, metal chelators and antioxidants which are beneficial for human health.

Chlorogenic acid, syringic acid, and caffeic acid along with ferulic and p-coumaric acid showed dose-dependent antiproliferative activity on the growth of MDA human breast cancer cells and human HepG2 liver cancer cells.

Carotenoid (all-trans-lutein and all-trans-zeaxanthin) can exert an antioxidant effect.

Antioxidants from foxtail millet are reported to inhibit LDL peroxidation, triglyceride levels, and c-reactive protein levels Its extract decrease the atherogenic index and increase protection against atherogenicity, which helps the millet in responding against diabetic complications and disturbed lipid metabolism in diabetics

Potential Benefits

  • WUE of foxtail millet is highest than any crop which makes it a suitable choice for semi-arid climate
  • Foxtail millet utilizes three times less water as compared to maize
  • Foxtail millet is cultivated during monsoon season (July-August) so it can produce more biomass than annual rye by utilizing minimal irrigation water
  • Foxtail millet does not contain prus­sic acid
  • It has the potential to produce 15000-25000 Kg/Ha forage
  • Seed production potential is 900-1000 Kg/Ha which can be used as a superfood due to its numerous health benefits
  • Foxtail millet grain is highly nutritious and superior to rice and wheat in certain constituents
  • Grain of foxtail millet can replace maize 100% in poultry feed
  • Grains of foxtail millet have a low glycemic index (GI) and high fiber content
  • The metabolism of sugar and cholesterol gets increased due to α-glucans resulting in hypoglycemic and hypocholesterolemic effects, which is beneficial for the prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases
  • It is used in the preparation of low GI foods for treating diabetics, particularly type 2 diabetes
  • It has also shown to possess benefits like prevention of cancer and hypolipidemic effects
  • An aqueous extract of foxtail millet has shown to decrease the atherogenic index and increase protection against atherogenicity


  • Forage
  • Hay
  • Feed
  • Products
    • Foxtail millet flour
    • Unfortified weaning mix
    • Composite flour and bread
    • Ready-to-eat extruded snack
    • Ready-to-eat flaked snack
    • Foxtail millet bran oil
    • Soybean Paste
    • Sikhye beverage
    • Yakju beverage
    • Biscuits and burfi
    • Probiotic dashi
    • Semolina
    • Foxtail millet gel


  • Related to Production
  • Lack of quality germplasm
  • Acclimatization constraints
  • No specific production technology is available
  • Lack of research facilities
  • Related to use of Forage
  • Forage produced in high water stress condition may cause nitrate poising and glucoside setarian which is toxic to animals and can damage kidney, liver, and bones of animals
  • Excessive use of this forage can cause a laxative effect on animals
  • Seed heads from foxtail millet can become lodged in the mouth of animals resulting in physical damage
  • Related to Products
  • Lack of awareness about its nutritious value
  • Food habits
  • Lack of suitable milling machinery
  • Lack of suitable processing technologies
  • Low shelf stability of flour /semolina due to high oxidative & hydrolytic rancidity


  • Foxtail millet is a crop that has highest WUE and potential to grow in low water condition so there is need of proper research for the production of this versatile nature crop which has the potential to produce forage as well as its use as a superfood due to its nutritious properties.
  • Never use highly water-stressed forage. Forage of foxtail millet should be harvested at the booting stage and used by mixing it with other forage to prevent laxative effects as well as physical damage in the mouth of an animal by seed head. Apply less Nitrogen to prevent nitrate poisoning in forage.
  • Proper awareness should be given to people about its nutritious value, diseases curing and preventing properties and other benefits health benefits by conducting seminars, workshops, and campaigns.

Authors : Rashid Rafique, Miqdam Sajid, Akhtar Abbas, Muhammad Asad, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq

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