Maize (or Corn) is the number one cereal in the world. It is important as a staple crop in Africa and South America and it is also important worldwide as a fodder crop.
Rice is a tropical cereal, but it also grows in some temperate regions with a warmer climate.
It is the second most important cereal in the world after maize. In the tropics it’s the primary cereal for human consumption. Rice is the main staple food for half the world’s population.
Four species in the genus Zizania are known as wild rice, but they should not be confused with Asian rice (Oryza sativa), which is a plant in a different genus.
Of all species the grains can be used as a cereal, but the Manchurian wild rice is nowadays mainly cultivated in China to use the thickened stems as a vegetable.
Fonio or White fonio (Digitaria exilis) is a cereal crop grown in the savannas of West Africa. It has very small seeds and is therefore one of the cereals that are called “millets”. Sometimes it is called “hungry rice”.
A related species Digitaria iburua is called Black fonio.
Spelt is a primitive type of wheat. It is an annual plant in the grasses family (Poaceae) which was already cultivated as a cereal 8 – 9,000 years ago.
Spelt wheat originates from the Fertile Crescent of the Near East, the same region where also other early cereals such as emmer wheat and barley were grown.
Oat is a cereal that used to be the staple food for people in Scotland. In most other countries its main use is as a fodder for livestock. When oats are used for human consumption it is often in the form of oatmeal or rolled oats which are used to prepare oat porridge or oat cookies.
Sorghum is an important cereal in relatively drier tropical regions. Usually it is grown for the grain, as a fodder crop or as a biofuel. Globally it is now the 5th important cereal after maize, rice, wheat and barley, but in Africa it is the second most important cereal after maize.
In the highlands of Ethiopia the main staple food grown is Tef or Teff, which is a very fine grass-like cereal. Tef flour is used to prepare ‘injera’ or ‘enjera’, which is a soft spongy bread that looks like a pancake. In a few other countries tef is grown to produce hay as a fodder crop.
Wheat is worldwide the third most-important cereal after maize and rice, but it is the most important cereal of the temperate regions. It has been cultivated domestically for at least 11,000 years. Wheat flour has many uses, but its main use is to make bread, a staple food for many people around the world.
Finger millet is a cereal grown mainly in drier regions of Africa and Asia. Seeds are used to make flour which can be used to make bread, porridge or pancakes.
In some regions finger millet is used for human consumption as a staple food. Seeds are also used as animal feed.
Khorasan wheat is an ancient cereal which probably originates from the Fertile Crescent. It is probably a natural hybrid between Triticum durum and Triticum polonicum. The ears and grains of this type of wheat are longer than in modern wheat (Triticum aestivum).
Barley was one of the first cereals cultivated by man. It is one of the eight neolithic founder crops, which were plant species that were domesticated in the Fertile Crescent region by early farming communities.
Barley is still a very important cereal crop. Worldwide, it is the fourth important cereal crop (after maize, rice and wheat.
Seeds of hairy crabgrass can be used to make flour. It is a cereal belonging to the group of ‘millets’, which used to be cultivated long ago in Central Europe. It is sometimes grown to provide food for grazing animals, or to make hay. In many places it grows as a weed.
Pearl millet originates from tropical Africa and is an important food crop in parts of Africa and in the Indian sub continent.
The grains can be ground into flour, which is used to prepare a porridge. Malt of pearl millet can be used to brew beer. Pearl millet is also grown as a forage crop, for grazing, silage and hay.
Proso millet is an annual grass. It is a cereal which was already cultivated 7,000 years ago. Nowadays it is often grown for birdseed or it is sold as health food.
Proso millet grows in a wide range of soil and climatic conditions. It has the lowest water requirement of all cereals, which makes it suitable for drier climates.
Names Scientific Echinochloa esculentaEnglish Japanese barnyard millet Japanese milletDutch Japanse gierstSpanish Mijo japonésFrench Millet JaponaisGerman Japanische Hirse Taxonomy Genus EchinochloaFamily PoaceaeOrder Poales Did you know that? Several small grain cereals are all known by the name “Millet” but are actually different crop species. Crop categories Cereals Food crops Temperate crops Forage and fodder crops Pictures
Names Scientific Echinochloa frumentaceaEnglish Indian barnyard millet Sawa milletFrench Millet japonaisGerman Sawahirse Weizenhirse Taxonomy Genus EchinochloaFamily PoaceaeOrder Poales Did you know that? Did you know that? Several small grain cereals are all known by the name “Millet” but are actually different crop species. Crop categories Cereals Food crops Subtropical crops Forage and fodder crops Pictures
Emmer was one of the first domesticated crops. It was first grown in the Near East. Nowadays it is very rare.
Emmer wheat is one of the eight neolithic founder crops, which were plant species that were domesticated by early farming communities in the Fertile Crescent region.