Author Topic: Perennial Foxtail Millet (Setaria parviflora)  (Read 1438 times)

Ryan M Miller

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Perennial Foxtail Millet (Setaria parviflora)
« on: 2020-12-13, 08:20:44 PM »
I have been spending some time reading about the wild relatives of foxtail millet (Setaria italica) since grasses in the Setaria genus seem to be the most common edible weedy grains in my region next to Lamb's Quarters. Most species in this genus seem to be alien annual weeds that are not native to North America with a few exceptions. There are about half a dozen perennial species of foxtail grass native to the southwestern United States, but the species Setaria parviflora seems to be the only perennial species of foxtail grass native to the eastern and central United States.

Based on a journal article by Daniel F. Austin (2006) (https://www.jstor.org/stable/4257087?seq=1) there is a possibility that Setaria parviflora was at one time domesticated in mesoamerica before the widespread cultivation of maize. If this foxtail grass has a high potential for domestication, then it could be used to develop a perennial variety of foxtail millet that does not need to be replanted every season.

S.Simonsen

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Re: Perennial Foxtail Millet (Setaria parviflora)
« Reply #1 on: 2020-12-14, 01:28:03 PM »
Millets in general seem to have been abandoned when alternatives came along since they are rich in antinutrients. The goitrogens that mess up your thyroid system are especially problematic.

Ryan M Miller

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Re: Perennial Foxtail Millet (Setaria parviflora)
« Reply #2 on: 2020-12-14, 02:01:14 PM »
Millets in general seem to have been abandoned when alternatives came along since they are rich in antinutrients. The goitrogens that mess up your thyroid system are especially problematic.
I was unaware of the presence of antinutrients in millets. Is this true of all genera called millets or only for foxtail millet Setaria italica? I would live to see some journal articles analyzing the antinutrients in foxtail millet.

Theoretically, it should be possible to develop varieties of foxtail millet with lower antinutrient levels through selective breeding. For the infamous grass pea (Lathyrus sativus), there is a related ongoing breeding project to develop varieties of this plant with lower or nonexistant levels of ODAP and BAPN to reduce the risk of lathyrism in regular consumers of these peas. Perhaps such techniques being used in the breeding project for lathyrus peas could be adapted for foxtail millet species at the same time while developing perennial cultivars of this crop.

S.Simonsen

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Re: Perennial Foxtail Millet (Setaria parviflora)
« Reply #3 on: 2020-12-14, 02:44:46 PM »
A google scholar search for antinutrient and the genus in question shows dozens of papers. It isn't a unique issue for millets, pretty much every plant product will contain antinutrients and toxins which become more problematic the more of that one crop a person eats. Fermenting and other treatments are often key for improving edibility but are never 100% successful. Of course it is possible to breed for lower toxin levels, though it often has to be balanced with pest pressure on the crop. The process of adjusting levels of minor components during breeding can be accelerated if you can find a good way to test levels during selection.
We have Setaria sphacelata here growing wild as a pasture grass that has since turned out to be more of a weed. It produces a lot of seed that supports our huge population of finches and other small birds. I wondered how edible it would be in a pinch. Other millets grow well for me but the finch populations make getting a harvest impossible.
Update- I was just thinking about the push for perennial grains while in the garden. I think the whole annual/perennial divide is a red herring. It is how the whole system is managed that really matters, not the lifespan/genetic potential of the strains. Fukuoka's way of managing his rice and barley rotation is a perfect example of how annuals can be managed to have all the benefits of perennials without the drawbacks (though others found it difficult to replicate in different locations, even ones that seemed superficially similar). I am aiming for something similar in my system, with long growing perennial tuber crops (2-4 years) being replanted with annuals that are mostly grains after the tubers are harvested out. The perennials can be re-established under the canopy of the annual grain crops to minimise gaps in the cycle.
« Last Edit: 2020-12-14, 04:37:44 PM by S.Simonsen »

Gene Tyle

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Re: Perennial Foxtail Millet (Setaria parviflora)
« Reply #4 on: 2020-12-16, 06:41:51 AM »
Hi,
I can not argue with S.Simonsen. I wanted to comment on supporting your local and migratory birds. I save seeds from elderberries when I can. Sometimes the birds "beat me to the punch". If I get to them before they do I leave a lot for them to enjoy and distribute.

If you toil away at seeds that you cant use but benefit the birds, you have not wasted your time... Even if your main goal is not realized.
Sorry to sound like a fortune cookie.

Steve1

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Re: Perennial Foxtail Millet (Setaria parviflora)
« Reply #5 on: 2020-12-16, 11:05:04 PM »
A google scholar search for antinutrient and the genus in question shows dozens of papers. It isn't a unique issue for millets, pretty much every plant product will contain antinutrients and toxins which become more problematic the more of that one crop a person eats. Fermenting and other treatments are often key for improving edibility but are never 100% successful. Of course it is possible to breed for lower toxin levels, though it often has to be balanced with pest pressure on the crop. The process of adjusting levels of minor components during breeding can be accelerated if you can find a good way to test levels during selection.
We have Setaria sphacelata here growing wild as a pasture grass that has since turned out to be more of a weed. It produces a lot of seed that supports our huge population of finches and other small birds. I wondered how edible it would be in a pinch. Other millets grow well for me but the finch populations make getting a harvest impossible.
Update- I was just thinking about the push for perennial grains while in the garden. I think the whole annual/perennial divide is a red herring. It is how the whole system is managed that really matters, not the lifespan/genetic potential of the strains. Fukuoka's way of managing his rice and barley rotation is a perfect example of how annuals can be managed to have all the benefits of perennials without the drawbacks (though others found it difficult to replicate in different locations, even ones that seemed superficially similar). I am aiming for something similar in my system, with long growing perennial tuber crops (2-4 years) being replanted with annuals that are mostly grains after the tubers are harvested out. The perennials can be re-established under the canopy of the annual grain crops to minimise gaps in the cycle.

Shane, I agree with your point on annuals vs perennials. The system productivity is the main point. The point you made about fermentation made me think about a millet relative teff. I remember reading something about the Eithiopian people always fermenting the dough for Injera (flat bread), with the author claiming not to know why as there was no gluten. It makes sense that they do this to reduce the antinutrients in one of their staple crops. Good to join the dots sometimes.

Steph S

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Re: Perennial Foxtail Millet (Setaria parviflora)
« Reply #6 on: 2021-01-15, 04:17:31 PM »
I would just like to make a couple of points in favor of perennials in cropping systems.
1) Perennials can have a significant impact on water retention and infiltration rates in crop systems.  If the perennial is a crop too, so much the better.   Perennials in the growing system can help to improve conditions for annual crops, in water short environments.  For example:
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0215702
2) Additional benefits to the environment come from not having to till or disturb the soil, or from tilling less frequently.  Less nutrient loss, fewer carbon or nitrogen emissions, and so on, would be benefits coming from development of a perennial crop.
3) Perennials once established are far less susceptible to seasonal changes and extremes.  They will survive weather events that would cause an annual crop to fail.
4) May I just say that I for one am lazy enough to think favorably on a crop that I plant once and harvest for multiple years to come.  :P Self-sowing annual systems are possible, yes, but they do require disturbed soil and therefore there is both work and environmental cost, which do not apply in case of the perennial crop, which might require nothing more than being admired occasionally.  ;D
5) In times of disasters when your main crop is lost, who wouldn't be glad of a perennial patch that produced even something.

I will not likely every grow millet here, since it's too cold.  But I think perennial millet is a fine goal for a warmer environment, especially a dry one.  I'm interested in any kind of perennial crop that I can grow.   

5)

Steph S

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Re: Perennial Foxtail Millet (Setaria parviflora)
« Reply #7 on: 2021-01-16, 11:30:25 AM »
I was unaware of the presence of antinutrients in millets. Is this true of all genera called millets or only for foxtail millet Setaria italica? I would live to see some journal articles analyzing the antinutrients in foxtail millet.

Theoretically, it should be possible to develop varieties of foxtail millet with lower antinutrient levels through selective breeding. For the infamous grass pea (Lathyrus sativus), there is a related ongoing breeding project to develop varieties of this plant with lower or nonexistant levels of ODAP and BAPN to reduce the risk of lathyrism in regular consumers of these peas. Perhaps such techniques being used in the breeding project for lathyrus peas could be adapted for foxtail millet species at the same time while developing perennial cultivars of this crop.

I found this while reading about millet antinutrients last night.  In pearl millet, they found lots of genetic diversity in antinutrient producing genes, so plenty of variation to work with.   Maybe in the perennial as well, or perhaps a cross with the right lines of pearl millet would do it.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325523835_Antinutritional_factors_in_pearl_millet_grains_Phytate_and_goitrogens_content_variability_and_molecular_characterization_of_genes_involved_in_their_pathways