Sorghum vs. Millet vs. Barley: Cereal Grains For Fuel or Beverages?

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Difference between Sorghum, Millet and Barley

Sorghum is a grass that produces grain. Native to warm climates, sorghum is a prominent in many tropical and subtropical areas. Sorghum is related to the sugar cane plant.

Millet is a grain that is grown around the world in areas that are likely to experience drought conditions. Largely considered a cereal crop, millet is a crop that is available in many varieties.

Barley is a grass that produces cereal grain, which has many uses. Barley is a member of the grass family and is self-pollinating. The spikelets on a barley stalk are either two rows or six rows.


History of Sorghum, Millet, and Barley

Sorghum has long been grown and cultivated in Africa and South America, but there are even crops of sorghum grown in the northeast region of the United States and in Australia. Once used as only food and liquor, sorghum is now used somewhat as a biofuel.

Millet has been grown and cultivated in East Asia for over 10,000 years and can be found along the midsection of Africa as well as the northeastern section of the United States.

Barley was domesticated as a grain crop around the same time as wheat. Grown mostly in the European Union, barley is a large part of the crops in Southern Australian as well as the northeastern United States.

Uses of Sorghum, Millet, and Barley

Sorghum has many uses, and in China, sorghum is fermented and distilled producing a liquor called maotai. Chinese people also grind up sorghum into flour and use it as an alternative to wheat.

Millet is used a source of food in the semi-arid and arid parts of the world and is a major part of the local cuisine in some areas. Millet flour is used to make bread and cereal, but also porridge. In Russia, Germany, and China this porridge is eaten with milk and sugar. In China, it is commonly eaten without milk and sugar as well, and is sometimes served with beans, potatoes, or squash.

Barely is used for many products, but probably most popularly as an ingredient in bread, beer and whiskey. German and English beers typically use the two-row barley, and U.S. beers normally use six-row barley.

Cultivation and Production of Sorghum, Millet, and Barley

Sorghum is a crop that has worldwide significance and can be grown in areas that experience drought and severe heat. Arid regions of Africa, Central America, and Southern Asia grow this grain as a staple crop. The stalks of the plant are harvested as well for use in making millwork material called Kirei board.

The world's largest producer of millet is India and has a longer prevalence in history than rice. The grass contains a small seed of grain in areas that are considered difficult.

Barley is a crop that can adapt to many climates. In some regions, it is grown as a summer crop, and in others, it is a winter crop. It only takes up to three days to germinate.

Compare and Contrast

  • Sorghum is a crop that is a cereal grain native to warm climates and used for flour, liquor, grazing animal fodder, and even biofuel. Even the stalk of the sorghum plant can be used, and on an interesting note, there are some species of sorghum that can contain cyanide in toxic levels.
  • Millet is likewise a cereal grain that is grown in mostly warm climates and is resistant to drought. As a principle crop of India, millet is used for the distilled liquors called rakshi and tongba.
  • Barley is another cereal grain; however, its growing conditions are much more adaptable than the other two. Much of the barley produced in the United States is used for animal food, is a common ingredient in bread products and the remaining barley stores are used largely in the production of alcoholic beverages.


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