Millets figure prominently among rain fed Crops. India is the largest producer of Various types of Millets, which are referred as coarse cereals. However, realizing the nutrient richness of these grains they are now considered as “nutri-cereals”. These grains are well known for their superior quality, nutritional security and human health. When one looks at the traditional and earlier food habits in the country, it would be realized that one or the other small millets dominated in the past in almost every region.
The millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for both human food and fodder. They do not form a taxonomic group, but rather a functional or agronomic one.
Millets are the most important crops in the semi-arid tropics of Asia and Africa (especially in India, Nigeria, and Niger), with 97% of millet production in developing countries. The crop is favored due to its productivity and short growing season under dry, high temperature conditions.
The most widely grown Grain is pearl millet, which is an important crop in India and parts of Africa. Finger millet, proso millet, and foxtail millet are also important crop species. In the developed world, millets are less important. For example, in the United States the only significant crop is proso millet, which is mostly grown for bird seed.
While millets are indigenous to many parts of the world, It is most likely had an evolutionary origin in tropical western Africa, as that is where the greatest number of both wild and cultivated forms exist. Millets have been important food staples in human history, particularly in Asia and Africa, and they have been in cultivation in East Asia for the last 10,000 years.
The millets include species in several genera, mostly in the subfamily Panicoideae, of the grass family Poaceae. The exceptions, finger millet and teff, are in the subfamily Chloridoideae. The most widely cultivated species in order of worldwide production are:
1. Pearl millet (Kambu) (Also known as bajra in India)
2. Foxtail millet (Tenai)
3. Proso millet, common millet, broom corn millet, hog millet or white millet (Panivaragu)
4. Finger millet (Kelvargu) (Also known as ragi, nachani or mandwa in India)
5. Barnyard millet (Kuthiravaali)
6. Kodomillet (Varagu)
7. Little millet (Samai)
8. Sorghum(Cholam) (Also known as Jowar)
MINOR MILLETS INCLUDE:
- Indian barnyard millet or sawa millet (Echinochloa frumentacea)
- Japanese barnyard millet (Echinochloa esculenta)
- Kodo millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum)
- Little millet (Panicum sumatrense)
- Guinea millet (Brachiaria deflexa = Urochloa deflexa)
- Browntop millet (Urochloa ramosa = Brachiaria ramosa = Panicum ramosum)
Teff (Eragrostis tef) and fonio (Digitaria exilis) are also often called millets, as more rarely are sorghum (Sorghum spp.) and Job’s tears (Coix lacrima-jobi).
Finger millet or Ragi (Eleusine coracana L. Gaertn) is a major food crop of semiarid tropics of Asia and Africa and has been an indispensable component of dry farming system. It is third in importance among millets, in the country in area and production after sorghum and pearl millet.
Little millet or Samai is widely cultivated as cereal across India, Nepal and Western Burma. Presently It is grown throughout India in more than half a million hectare with major area being in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Bihar, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Samai is grown in Dharmapuri, Salem, Erode, Coimbatore, Madurai and Vellore districts of Tamil Nadu. It is highly tolerant to heat and drought. It is preferred in extreme soil and climatic conditions of tribal agriculture. The average grain yield is 400-600 kg/ha.
India and West Africa are the major growers of kodo millet or varagu. It is one of the small millets which is indigenous to Indian sub-continent and domesticated with a cultivation history of more than 3,000 years. The cultivation of kodo millet in India is quite wide spread stretching to many stress in south, west, central and North India.
The crop grows well in shallow as well as drained soils in districts like Trichy, Cuddalore, Vellore, Ramnad, Salem, Dharmapuri, Madurai and Pudukottai of Tamil Nadu. Kodo millet is grown predominantly as sole crop or mixed with red gram, sesamum, niger and black gram. The traditional methods of dehusking is done using earthen mortar with wooden pestle and debraning by hand still persists. Debranned grains are white to dull and resembles rice. Medicinally, kodo millet is used in curing inflammation, diseases of liver, dysentery and considered to keep the body warm.
Foxtail millet also known as kangni, navane, tenai, korra and rala in various colloquial names in different Indian languages, is one of the oldest crops cultivated for food grain and straw and cultivated as dryland crop under marginal and sub-marginal lands of tropical and subtropical Asia. Native home of foxtail millet is considered to be China, from where the crop later spread to Africa and Europe in pre-historic times. It is an important crop in China, Japan and other countries where as in North and South America, Australia and Africa as a minor cereal.
Proso millet is one of the small millets cultivated in specialized agriculture richness in the country. It is the true millet of the history and is said to be as ancient as wheat. It is called by different names in many parts of the world as French millet, hog millet and in India as panivaragu, Cheena and Cheen. It is cultivated in the Himalayan region upto an altitude of 2700 metre above MSL. It is well known for its early maturity and drought withstanding ability.
Proso millet is grown in Coimbatore, Erode, Salem and Tirunelveli districts of Tamil Nadu. The dehusked grain is nutritious and rich in protein (9.5-12.8%). It is eaten as cooked rice flour and is used to make unleavened bread or roti. Value added products such as parboiled, flacked, puffed, expanded, extruded, deep fried rice and noodles, could be prepared.
Barnyard millet or Kudiraivali is native of Eurasia. The area of cultivation ranges from 50’N to 40’S latitude in both temperature and tropical habitates. The success of barnyard millet is attributed to prolific seedling, seed dormancy, ability to grow rapidly and flower in range of photoperiods. Barnyard millet grass has some forage value but requires considerable water to produce more biomass and it is too succulent for ‘hay’ making. The edible seeds could be ground to meal to flour. Barnyard millet is an important rain fed crop of assured rainfall regions.
It is cultivated over a wide array of environmental and poor soil health conditions and grown both for grain and fodder. Its cultivation is mainly confined to tribal belts of Orissa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Bihar besides hills of Uttar Pradesh. It is generally cultivated in hill slopes and undulating fields.
Kudiraivali is grown in Ramnad, Tirunelveli, Virudhunagar and Madurai districts of Tamil Nadu. The grain is highly nutritious in comparison with other major cereals.
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