Finger Millet

INTRODUCTION

This is  an annual herbaceous plant  grown as a cereal crop in the arid and semiarid areas in Africa and Asia. Finger millet is native to the Ethiopian and Ugandan highlands.

 This is self-pollinating species.

GROWING REGION-

Main cultivation areas are parts of eastern and southern Africa – particularly Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania – and parts of India and Nepal.

CLIMATE REQUIREMENT-

This is a short-day plant with a growing optimum 12 hours of daylight for most varieties. Its main growing area ranges from 20°N to 20°S, meaning mainly the semiarid to arid tropics. Finger millet is found to be grown at 30°N in the Himalaya region (India and Nepal).

 Finger millet is a drought-tolerant crop, but compared with other millets, such as pearl millet and sorghum, it prefers moderate rainfall (500 millimeters (20 in) annually).

In India, finger millet is a typical rabi (dry-winter season) crop, it tolerates heat very well.

For Ugandan finger millet varieties, the optimal average growth temperature ranges at about 27 °C to 18 °C.

 Relative to other species (pearl millet and sorghum), finger millet has a higher tolerance to cool temperatures as well. It is grown from about 500 to 2400 m above sea level (e.g. in Himalaya region). So, it is cultivated on higher elevations than most tropical crops. 

SOIL REQUIREMENT-

Finger millet can grow on various soils; especially highly weathered tropical lateritic soils.  It can tolerate soil salinity up to a certain extent. It holds limited water results in drainage of soils. Finger millet can tolerate moderately acidic soils (pH 5), but also moderately alkaline soils (pH 8.2).

CROPPING SYSTEMS-

Finger millets intercropping with legumes, such as cowpea or pigeon pea, are common in East Africa.

In Tropical Central Africa, finger millet intercropping with legumes, but also with cassava, plantain, and vegetables.

Most common finger millet intercropping systems in South India are as follows-

  • With legumes: Finger millet/dolichos, finger millet/pigeon pea, finger millet/black gram, finger millet/castor
  • With cereals: Finger millet/maize, finger millet/foxtail millet, finger millet/jowar, finger millet/little millet
  • With other species: Finger millet/brassicas, finger millet/mustard.

DISEASES AND PESTS-

Finger millets are not very prone to infected with diseases and pests. Finger millet blast, caused by the fungal pathogen Magnaporthe grisea (anamorph Pyricularia grisea), can locally cause severe damages, especially when untreated.

 In Uganda, finger millets crops losses up to 80% were reported in bad years resulting in drying out of leaves, neck rots, and ear rots. These symptoms can drastically impair photosynthesis, translocation of photosynthetic assimilates, and grain filling, so reduce yield and grain quality.

Finger millet crop blast can be controlled with cultural measures, chemical treatments, and the use of resistant and it is suggested by ICRISAT for Eastern Africa include crop rotations with no host crops such as legumes, deep plugging under of finger millet straw on infected fields, washing of field tools after use to prevent dissemination of the pathogen to uninfected fields.

PROPAGATION AND SOWING-

Propagation in finger millet farming is done mainly by seeds. In rain fed cropping, four sowing methods are used:

1. Broadcasting: commonest method, easiest method, no machinery required Seeds are directly sown in the field.

2. Line Sowing: much better then broadcasting. In this method, spacing of 22 cm to 30 cm between lines and 8 cm to 10 cm within lines should be maintained. The seeds should be sown about 3 cm deep in the soil, results in better organic weeds management due to spacing between weeds and crops.

3. Drilling in rows: Seeds are sown directly in the untreated soil by using a direct-seed drill. This method is used in conservation agriculture.

4. Transplanting the seedlings: in this method raising the seedlings in nursery beds and transplant to the main field. Leveling and watering of beds is required during transplanting. Seedlings with 4 weeks age should be transplanted in the field. For early Rabi and Kharif season, seedlings should be transplanted at 25 cm x 10 cm and for late Kharif season at 30 cm x 10 cm. planting should be done 3 cm depth in the soil

HARVEST

Crop does not mature uniformly and hence the harvest is to be taken up in two stages. 

  1. When 50% of the ear heads on the crop turn brown, the crop is ready for the first harvest. Ear heads that turns brown should be cut first. After this drying, threshing and cleaning the grains by winnowing. 
    1. The second harvest is around seven days after the first. All ear heads, including the green ones, should be cut., kept  in shade for one day without drying, so that the humidity and temperature increase and the grains get cured. After this drying, threshing and cleaning as after the first harvesting

STORAGE

As a first step, finger millet can be milled to produce flour, it is difficult to mill due to the small size of the seeds and because the bran is bound very tightly to the endosperm, chances of crushing the delicate seeds during the process of milling.

Therefore, the main product of finger millet is whole grain flour, have some disadvantages, such as reduced storage time of the flour due to the high oil content.

Karnataka is the highest producer of ragi in India and contributes 58 per cent of the entire countries production.

This cereal need not be polished, unlike other cereals, making it healthier to consume.

The industrial use of whole grain finger millet flour is limited. Moistening the millet seeds prior to grinding helps to remove the bran mechanically without causing damage to the rest of the seed. The mini millet mill can also be used to process other grains such as wheat and sorghum.

MALTING

Malting is the process of germinating the seed and is very common in the production of brewed beverages such as beer. When finger millet is germinated, enzymes are activated, which transfer starches into other carbohydrates such as sugars. Finger millet has a good malting activity. The malted finger millet can be used to produce gluten-free beer or easily digestible food for infants

GROWING FINGER MILLET TO IMPROVE NUTRITION-

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a member of the CGIAR consortium, partners with farmers, governments, researchers and NGOs to help farmers grow nutritious crops, including finger millet.

This helps their communities have more balanced diets and become more resilient to pests and drought.

For example, the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement of Sorghum and Millets in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (HOPE) project is increasing yields of finger millet in Tanzania by encouraging farmers to grow improved varieties.

NUTRITION IN FINGER MILLET : PER 100 grams

Carbohydrate (gms) – 65-75%

Protein (gms ) – 5-8%

Fibers- 15-20%

Calcium-344mg% (richest source of calcium)

Potassium-408mg%

It is particularly high in thiamine, calcium and iron and also the essential amino acid, methionine. It has a very low glycaemic index, is alkaline and is gluten free.

FROM AYURVEDIC VIEW-

Rasa: Sweet

Virya: Heating

Vipaka: Sweet

Qualities: Dry, Light

Actions on the doshas: Balances Kapha, increases Vata and Pitta in excess

Action on the mind:  Rajasic/Sattvic

From Ayurvedic point of view Ragi (like other millet) is considered Sweet, Warming, Dry and Light. This makes it an unusual grain because it has the satisfying, nourishing effect of the Sweet taste but at the same time is light, easy to digest and can antidote the damp stickiness that can result from eating other heavier grains (like wheat).

Due to its light, warming and drying effect, Ragi is used as ‘food medicine’ in the treatment of high Amla, high cholesterol, dull Agni, diabetes, excess weight, edema and other excess Kapha (mucous/fluid) conditions.

If eaten in excess it may aggravate Vata or Pitta but if cooked with a little oil and/or milk and some cooling spices (like cardamom), it is can be transformed into a relatively tridoshic grain.

PREPARATION AS FOOD-

IN INDIA

Best way to consume this is malted and its grain is ground into flour. The flour is consumed with milk, boiled water, or yogurt. The flour is made into flatbreads, including thin, leavened dosa and thicker, unleavened roti.

In southern India, finger millet is used in preparing baby food, because of millet’s high nutritional content, especially iron and calcium. It can prepare in the form of Dosa a sour porridge, and pappad are common dishes made using finger millet.

In Karnataka, finger millet is generally consumed in the form of a porridge called ragi mudde

 In the Malnad region of Karnataka, the whole ragi grain is soaked and the milk is extracted to make a dessert known as keelsa.

A type of flat bread is prepared using finger millet flour called ragi rotti in Kannada in Northern districts of Karnataka.

In Tamil Nadu, ragi is called kezhvaragu and also has other names like keppai, ragi, and ariyam. Ragi is dried, powdered, and boiled to form a thick mass that is allowed to cool. This is the famed kali or keppai kali. This is made into large balls to quantify the intake. It is taken with sambar or kuzhambu.

For children, ragi is also fed with milk and sugar (malt). It is also made in the form of pancakes with chopped onions and tomatoes. 

Kezhvaragu is used to make puttu with jaggery or sugar. Ragi is called koozh – a staple diet in farming communities, eaten along with raw onions and green chillies.

 In Andhra Pradesh, ragi sankati or ragi muddha – ragi balls – are eaten in the morning with chilli, onions, and sambar. 

In Kerala, puttu, a traditional breakfast dish, can be made with ragi flour and grated coconut, which is then steamed in a cylindrical steamer.

In the tribal and western hilly regions of Odisha, ragi or mandiaa is a staple food.

In the Garhwal and Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, koda or maddua is made into thick rotis (served with ghee), and also made into badi, which is similar to halwa but without sugar.

BENEFITS OF RAGI-

1. Rich in  Protein:

Eleusinian is the major protein content that is found in Ragi and has a lot of biological value. it helps to prevent malnutrition and is considered to be a healthy source of protein for vegetarians. Methionine content constitutes 5 per cent of the total protein found in Ragi. 

2. Helps in Weight Loss :

High amounts of fibers in it that keeps your stomach full and stops you from unwanted cravings, thus results in weight loss.

It reduces the level of blood sugar in your body and turns it into insulin. Ragi is best suited when you consume it in the morning. Ragi contains a type of amino acid called Tryptophan that helps you lose weight. Tryptophan reduces your appetite and thus you don’t feel hungry often.

3. Prevents your Skin from Ageing:

Ragi is a natural  an anti-ageing cereal. Important amino acids like Methionine and Lysine are present in Ragi that protects your skin from risks of rashes, wrinkles and skin dullness. The antioxidants found in Ragi fight stress in your body that help reverse the signs of ageing. It rejuvenates the skin cells, thus making you look fresh and healthy.

Ragi also has Vitamin E, which is very useful for your skin. This help lubricates the skin, forming a protective layer that enables your skin to grow.

4. Good for your Hair:

Ragi is rich in proteins and helps prevent hair loss. It is highly recommended for people suffering from hair loss, consuming Ragi will strengthen your hair and reduce hair fall. Magnesium content can be found in Ragi that is responsible for controlling hair loss.

Ragi also prevents premature graying of hair. This is usually caused due to the oxidation of tissues, and the antioxidants present in Ragi will effectively prevent the damage to tissues, thus reducing the possibility of having grey hair. Ragi also increases blood circulation in your body that helps in hair growth.

5. Ragi has loads of Calcium:

There is no cereal that comes close to the amount of calcium available in Ragi. Calcium is needed for human bones to develop and prevents osteoporosis, meaning bones become weak and fragile. So instead of popping calcium pills, it is recommended that you drink ragi porridge (ragi kanji). 100 grams of ragi consists of 344 milligrams of calcium which is high and very good for your bones.

6. Increases Production of Mothers Milk:

Lactating women must consume more green Ragi as it increases hemoglobin levels thus increasing the production of mother’s milk among women.

7. Prevents Diabetes:

Regular consumption of Ragi can help reduce your risk of diabetes. This is because polyphones and dietary fibers are prevalent in Ragi. Consuming Ragi on a regular basis lowers the level of blood sugar and stabilizes your sugar level. Ragi acts as an absorbent such that it absorbs starch and lowers the digestibility of your body. This is why most people who consume Ragi don’t feel hungry very often.

8. Helps in Good Digestion:

The dietary fiber present in Ragi helps your intestines digest food smoothly. Ranging from dosas to Ragi balls, this healthy cereal will keep you fit and healthy all day all long.

9. It keeps you Relaxed:

Ragi acts as a natural relaxant for your body. Consuming Ragi helps you deal with anxiety, insomnia and depression. It stabilizes all of these anxiety disorders and keeps you relaxed the whole day.Ragi acts as a coolant for your body on a hot summer day.

10. It Prevents Colon Cancer & breasts cancer:

Ragi is known to help prevent cancer because it contains fiber and phytonutrients that prevent the risk of colon cancer. Lignan, a type of nutrient found in Ragi is converted into mammalian Lignan by your intestine and this protects women from the risk of having breast cancer. Consuming Ragi daily can reduce our risks of developing cancer.

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