Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) is a warm season grass with a growing season of 60-100 days. It is a highly nutritious cereal grain used for human consumption, bird seed, and/or ethanol production. Unique characteristics, such as drought and heat tolerance, make proso millet a promising alternative cash crop for the Pacific Northwest (PNW) region of the United States. Development of proso millet varieties adapted to dryland farming regions of the PNW could give growers a much-needed option for diversifying their predominantly wheat-based cropping systems. In this review, the agronomic characteristics of proso millet are discussed, with emphasis on growth habits and environmental requirements, place in prevailing crop rotations in the PNW, and nutritional and health benefits. The genetics of proso millet and the genomic resources available for breeding adapted varieties are also discussed. Last, challenges and opportunities of proso millet cultivation in the PNW are explored, including the potential for entering novel and regional markets.
Keywords: Pacific Northwest; alternative crops; diversification; genetics; nutrition and health benefits; proso millet.