Economic Botany

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 108–116 | Cite as

Infraspecific variation and systematics of cultivatedSetaria italica, foxtail millet (Poaceae)

  • K. E. Prasada Rao
  • J. M. J. de Wet
  • D. E. Brink
  • M. H. Mengesha


Foxtail millet (Setaria italica,) is grown as a cereal in southern Europe and in temperate, subtropical, and tropical Asia. Its closest wild relative isS. italica ssp.viridis (green foxtail). Green foxtail is native to temperate Eurasia, but was introduced and became widely established as a weed in temperate and warmer parts of the Americas. Spontaneous and cultivatedS. italica cross to produce fertile hybrids. Derivatives of such crosses, resembling foxtail millet in some inflorescence traits but with efficient natural seed dispersal, accompany the cereal across its range of cultivation. Giant green foxtail of Europe and the American corn belt is a weed of hybrid origin. Foxtail millet was domesticated in the highlands of central China; remains of cultivated foxtail millet are known from the Yang-shao culture period dating back some 5,000 yrs. Comparative morphology suggests that foxtail millet spread to Europe and India as a cereal soon after its domestication. Three cultivated races are recognized. Moharia, from Europe and southwestern Asia, includes cultivars with 5–52 culms, each bearing several, small, more or less erect inflorescences. Cultivars in race maxima are characterized by plants with 1–8 usually unbranched culms that bear large inflorescences; they occur in Transcaucasian Russia and the Far East. Race indica is intermediate in culm number (ave. 6.6) and inflorescence size between races moharia and maxima, and is cultivated in southern Asia.


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Copyright information

© New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY 10458 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. E. Prasada Rao
  • J. M. J. de Wet
  • D. E. Brink
  • M. H. Mengesha
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Genetic Resources UnitICRISATPatancheru, Andhra PradeshIndia
  2. 2.Crop Evolution Laboratory, Department of AgronomyUniversity of IllinoisUrbana

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