Japanese Millet

Echinochloa esculenta

Synonyms - Echinochloa crus-galli subsp utilis, Echinochloa utilis,

Order: Poales

Family: Poaceae


Echinochloa is from the Greek echinos meaning hedge hog and chloe meaning grass and refers to the bristly seed head.
Japanese Millet.

Other Names

Barnyard Millet
White Japanese Millet


A course, erect, light green, fast growing, tussock forming annual, summer grass with an egg shaped, greenish purple seed head usually amongst the leaves and carrying small seeds.





Blade - Flat, 50-300 mm long x 3-20 mm wide, rounded into the sheath, gradually tapering to the tip. Edges roughened and whitish. Midrib whitish and obvious. Smooth and usually hairless or may have a few long hairs along the edges and near the junction of the blade and sheath. Distinctly keeled on the lower surface. The young leaves are rolled in the bud.
Ligule - None.
Auricles - None.
Sheath - Green often with a purple or red tinge. Flattened. Usually hairless.


Stout in the lower part, 500-1250 mm tall, smooth, often flattened, branching from the base or lower nodes. Usually has about 5 nodes. Forms tussocks.

Flower head:

Short, 60-200 mm long, usually erect or sometimes drooping, compact to oval, greenish purple panicle, usually amongst the leaves. 5-15 short, crowded, erect to spreading spike like racemes from all around the main axis that are 10-30 mm long and green to purple.


Spikelets - Purplish, overlapping pairs or triples, purplish to blackish brown, 3-5 mm long x 2-3 mm wide, oval and borne on short roughened stalks. Spikelets crowded on one side of the branches.
Florets - 2 per spikelet with the lower one sterile and the upper one bisexual.
Glumes - Unequal. The lower glume is membranous, 3-5 nerved an a third to half the length of the spikelet. The upper glume is 5-7 nerved and as long as the spikelet.
Palea - Lower one is the same length as the lemma and the upper one is shorter than the lemma.
Lemma - Sterile one has short hairs between the nerves, longer hairs on the nerves and otherwise similar to the upper glume. Fertile lemma is egg shaped, convex, smooth, faintly 5 nerved and hardened.
Stamens -
Anthers - 3.

Awns - None.



Small, brown grain, 2 mm long x 1.8 mm wide.


Fibrous. Shallow rooted.

Key Characters:

Leaves rolled in the bud.
No auricles.
No ligule.


Life cycle:

Annual. Seed is sown in spring and summer when soil temperatures are greater than 160C. It can often be grazed within 6 weeks of sowing. Harvested for silage at head peeping stage, hay a little later or grain as soon as it is ripe and before it shatters. Its growing season is from late spring until the onset of cool weather in autumn.


Killed by frost. Less drought tolerant than sorghum.
They will tolerate grazing 2-3 times if they are not in the reproductive stage.
Tolerant of temporary flooding.
It requires high fertility and is less drought tolerant than Sorghum.
Runs to head quickly under high temperatures.
Doesn't cause prussic acid poisoning.
Quickly looses palatability and feed value as it matures.


By seed.

Flowering times:

Summer to autumn in western NSW.
Summer in WA.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Require soil temperatures greater than 160C.
200-320 seeds per gram.

Vegetative Propagules:



A number of commercial varieties exist.

Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by intentional planting of seed.

Origin and History:

Eastern tropical Asia.



Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium.



Sub tropical. Warm temperate. Require summer rainfall or irrigation. Best suited to areas with more than 650 mm of rainfall.


Prefer well watered moderately fertile soil.

Plant Associations:



Grown for forage, fodder, grain. Grain used for birdseed and human consumption in Asia and Africa.
Japanese millet is a dual purpose species for both grazing and grain.
Palatable when young but becomes coarse and unpalatable with age. Should be rotationally grazed when young and regularly thereafter.


Weed of irrigation crops and irrigation channels in warmer areas like the Ord River valley.


Can usually be grazed at any growth stage, but one suspected case of toxicity has been recorded. It may contain toxic levels of nitrate.
It doesn't cause prussic acid poisoning.


Nitrate toxicity.
Swollen pendulous ears.


Remove stock from the infestation.



Management and Control:

Usually irrigated for maximum production.


Eradication strategies:

Herbicide resistance:

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Awnless Barnyard grass (Echinochloa colona) has a narrow seed head up to 20 mm wide, prostrate, spikelets in regular rows and the seed is whitish.
Barnyard Grass (Echinochloa crus-galli) is less robust and less erect and has a more pyramidal panicle, less and longer racemes which are not incurved or appressed. The spikelets are longer (>3 mm), hairy, awned, less densely arranged and the fertile lemma is elliptical rather than almost round. Japanese Millet may have been developed as a selection from Barnyard Grass.
Channel Millet (Echinochloa turneriana)
Hairy Miller (Echinochloa oryzoides) has a seed head the hangs horizontally with the panicle branches drooping to one side when ripe and the grains are pale brown and longer at 2.5-3 mm long.
Japanese Millet (Echinochloa esculenta or utilis) is used for fodder and bird seed.
Marsh Millet (Echinochloa inundata)
Prickly Barnyard grass (Echinochloa microstachya) has an erect pyramidal seed head with spreading branches, and yellow seed.
Siberian Millet or White Panicum (Echinochloa frumentacea) is similar but has pale spikelets and white grain.
South American Barnyard grass (Echinochloa crus-pavonis)
Swamp Barnyard grass (Echinochloa telmatophila)
Echinochloa elliptica

Plants of similar appearance:

Panic, Proso or White French Millet (Panicum miliaceum)
Hybrid Pearl, Open Pollinated Pearl, Bulrush, Feedmill, Ingrid, Katherine, Supermill or Tamworth Millet (Pennisetum americanum)
Panorama, Dwarf Panicum, Foxtail, German, Italian, Hungarian, Red Panicum or Siberian Millet (Setaria italica)
Canary Grass (Phalaris canariensis) is winter growing and not true millet.


Burbidge, N.T. and Gray, M. (1970). Flora of the Australian Capital Territory. (Australian National University Press, Canberra). P64.

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1992). Plants of Western New South Wales. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P90.

Everist, S.L. (1974). Poisonous Plants of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney). P315-316.

Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Cousens, R.D., Dodd, J. and Lloyd, S.G. (1997). Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. (Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia). P52.

Lamp, C.A., Forbes, S.J. and Cade, J.W. (2001). Grasses of Temperate Australia. Revised Edition. (Blooming Books, Melbourne). P150-151. Diagram.

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #477.11.

Reid, R.L. (1990) The Manual of Australian Agriculture. (Butterworths, Sydney). P89-91, 244.


Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 or www.herbiguide.com.au for more information.