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Sticky millet, locally called Muchiā in Yaeyama and commonly called Awa (Setaria italica L.), is a cereal produced by the Ryukyus/Lewchews indigenous community and growing natively in Okinawa, Japan. Its panicles are club- or conical-shaped with a yellowish brown to golden yellow colour and the grains are whiteish to yellow with a simple taste and are easy to eat with no particular flavor. Its glutinous nature gives it a chunky texture. Those growing on Taketomi Island, Kohama Island, and Kuro Island are genetically different from varieties from Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. It has also been suggested that it shares some commonalities with local varieties of indigenous peoples in Taiwan, although there are differences in panicle emergence. The harvesting period is from early April to May. Outside Okinawa, millet is a short-day plant for summer crops and unsuitable for winter crops. When native millet in northern Kyushu is grown under short-day conditions, the plants do not grow well enough to produce panicles. However, Muchiā has a unique characteristic not seen in millet in other regions: its weak response to short-day conditions and extremely long basic nutrient growth period, allowing it to grow nutritionally even under short-day conditions, making it favourable for winter cropping.

In the past, the local communities cultivated it for their own consumption, but now the production gets declined and it is produced only for the events of the local community. Before the introduction of sweet potatoes (around the 16th century), Muchiā and wheat were high priorities in the dietary habits of various regions of the Ryukyus and were often cultivated. People cultivated Muchiā to pay taxes and supplemented their valuable protein source with sweet potatoes and cycads to endure famines. By the early Showa period, sweet potato cultivation had increased, and sweet potato consumption was becoming more common. In the postwar period, rice and wheat flour were rationed, and eating habits are thought to have shifted significantly toward Westernization. At present, the cultivation of Muchiā is recovering, though only slightly. Even in areas where cultivation was discontinued once, there are those who are working to resume cultivation by introducing Aa seeds from other islands through exchanges among islands. It is assumed that the memories of childhood have led to a wide variety of millet, with seeds being exchanged among islands for the revival of farming rituals and other purposes. On the other hand, millet seeds of native varieties are not available at seed companies. Improved varieties from Nagano and Iwate prefectures, where grains are widely cultivated, are easily available.

The current situation is that easily available out-of-prefecture improved varieties are used in cultivation for commercial purposes. One of the problems is that the farmers are not familiar with the origin of the seeds, and there are cases where seeds are exchanged based on oral tradition, believing that the seeds are native, and through seed exchange, native Ryukyuan varieties and improved varieties are mixed, causing genetic invasion with different genetic backgrounds and threatening the disappearance of the native varieties. The native varieties are in danger of disappearing. To overcome this problem, it is necessary to separate the lineages of native varieties and provide support for seed renewal and cultivation through a genetic background approach. The GenBank of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization has about 20 lineages of millet from the Islands of Ryukyus on consignment. Since they are under semi-permanent conservation, revived cultivation is possible if procedures are followed, and seeds-returns are implemented.

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Production area:Okinawa, Japan

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Cereals and flours

Nominated by:Rikuto Tamaki