Other Important Agricultural Grasses
Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is a relatively ancient crop species, having been grown in northeastern Africa and the Middle East for as long as 6,000 years. The environmental conditions favorable to the growth of barley are similar to those for wheat, although barley can be cultivated in somewhat cooler conditions and therefore farther to the north in Eurasia. Most barley is used as feed for domestic animals, but it is also used as a malt in brewing ale and other alcoholic beverages.
Rye (Secale cereale) is an agricultural grass that originated in Asia. This species is mostly cultivated in north-temperate regions of central Asia and Europe. The flour is used to make rye breads and crisp breads, and it is sometimes used in a mash to prepare rye whisky.
Oats (Avena sativa) probably originated in western Asia, and they have been cultivated for more than 2,000 years. Unlike most of the temperate, agricultural grasses, oats are relatively tolerant of late-summer and autumn rains. Oats are mostly used as fodder for cattle and horses, but they are also used to prepare breakfast cereals, such as rolled oats and oatmeal porridge. The Turkish oat (A. orientalis) and short oat (A. brevis) are relatively minor cultivated species.
Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) is a small-grained cultivated species. Sorghum has been grown in Africa for at least 4,000 years, and it is still probably the most important crop for the making of bread flour on that continent. Sorghum is also widely used in Africa to prepare a mash for the brewing of beer. Some varieties of sorghum, known as broom-corns, are used to manufacture brushes, while others are used as forage crops.
Various other small-grain grasses are commonly known as millet. The most important species is the proso millet (Panicum miliaceum), which originated in tropical Africa or Asia, and has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. This species is relatively tolerant of drought, and it is most commonly cultivated under drier climatic regimes in Africa and Asia. Proso millet is commonly eaten as a cooked porridge, and it is also an important ingredient in commercial birdseeds. More minor species of millets include pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), foxtail millet (Setaria italica), Japanese millet (Echinochloa frumentacea), shama millet (E. colona), barnyard millet ( E. crus-galli), and ragi millet (Eleusine coracana).
Wild rice (Zizania aquatica) is a North American grass that grows naturally in shallow waters of temperate lakes and ponds, and has long been collected from the wild, usually by beating the ripe grains off their heads into a canoe, using a paddle. During the past several decades, however, this species has also been cultivated on farms in
the southwestern United States. This grain is relatively expensive, and is mostly used as an epicurean food and served with fine meals often mixed with Oryza rice.