Finger Millet Overview

 Scientific name: Eleusine coracana.

 Common name: Ragi, Nachni (Hindi)

Finger millet, also known as "ragi" in some regions, holds immense significance as a subsistence crop in Eastern Africa and Asia. This gluten-free cereal has gained recognition for its exceptional nutritional value, making it a vital weapon in the fight against malnutrition. Beyond its nutritional benefits, finger millet cultivation serves a dual purpose by not only fulfilling the dietary requirements of rural households but also contributing to their livelihoods.

The resilient nature of finger millet makes it particularly well-suited for cultivation in harsh agro-climatic conditions. Its adaptability to low-input cereal-based farming systems in Africa highlights its role in supporting traditional agricultural practices. With an estimated global annual planting area of 4-4.5 million hectares and a total production of 5 million tons of grains, finger millet plays a pivotal role in ensuring food security and sustenance for millions of people.

One of the most noteworthy attributes of finger millet is its exceptional storage capabilities. Free from storage seed pests, this cereal becomes an invaluable risk management strategy for farmers in drought-prone regions of Eastern Africa and South Asia. By preserving grains effectively, finger millet safeguards against food scarcity during times of environmental stress, ensuring a steady food supply for vulnerable communities.

India stands as a significant contributor to finger millet production, accounting for approximately 2.2 million tons, while Africa follows closely, producing about 2 million tons. Other countries in South Asia contribute to the remaining grain production, highlighting the global importance of this staple crop.

ICRISAT recognizes the pivotal role of finger millet and actively engages in research and breeding efforts to enhance its traits and productivity. By developing improved varieties with higher yields, increased resilience to climatic stresses, and further enriching its nutritional value, ICRISAT seeks to fortify food systems and improve the well-being of communities dependent on finger millet cultivation. The organization collaborates with local stakeholders and partners to ensure that finger millet's potential is fully harnessed in combating malnutrition, supporting livelihoods, and fostering sustainable agricultural practices in regions where it is a vital part of traditional food systems.


Our Impact

The ICRISAT Finger Millet Breeding Program, operating in both India and Kenya, has significantly contributed to the global distribution of germplasm and breeding lines in recent decades. Through these efforts, several promising and widely adapted finger millet cultivars with enhanced yield and nutritional content have been released and successfully adopted in various countries.

ICRISAT's commitment to finger millet research and breeding has contributed significantly to the development and dissemination of improved cultivars globally. These achievements underscore the organization's dedication to promoting sustainable agriculture, enhancing nutritional value, and bolstering food security in regions where finger millet plays a critical role in supporting livelihoods and dietary needs. The continuous efforts of the Finger Millet Breeding Program continue to have a profound impact on agricultural communities, fostering resilience and progress in the face of agricultural challenges.

The program's achievements have been notable, and some key highlights include:

  High Iron Variety 'NAROMIL 3' in Uganda: ICRISAT's breeding efforts led to the release of 'NAROMIL 3,' a finger millet variety with elevated iron content. This significant advancement addresses nutritional deficiencies and supports efforts to combat iron deficiency anemia in regions where finger millet is a dietary staple.

  High Protein Content Varieties 'NAROMIL 5' and 'EUFM-401': In Uganda and Kenya, respectively, ICRISAT introduced two high-protein content finger millet varieties, 'NAROMIL 5' and 'EUFM-401.' These varieties hold the potential to enhance the protein intake and nutritional status of communities, thereby contributing to improved health and well-being.

 'Snapping Finger Millet' (EUF 05) in Kenya: ICRISAT successfully released 'EUF 05,' also known as 'snapping finger millet,' in Kenya. This variety offers ease of harvest, making it more convenient for farmers and supporting increased productivity in finger millet cultivation.

 High Yielding Varieties in Malawi: ICRISAT's breeding program yielded three high-yielding finger millet varieties, namely ACC 14FMB/01WK, KNE 688, and P224, which were released in Malawi. These varieties are crucial in addressing food security challenges by increasing finger millet production and securing better harvests for farmers.


Market segments

ICRISAT's breeding program stands committed to continually assessing and updating the market segments for each crop in close collaboration with various stakeholders. These well-defined market segments play a pivotal role in prioritizing essential breeding traits, addressing the prevailing challenges that jeopardize crop production, and aligning with the preferences of farmers, consumers, processors, and other vital actors in the agri-food value chain.

In the case of finger millet, ICRISAT's breeding program presently concentrates on two distinct market segments to cater to the diverse needs of different agro-climatic regions:

 Short-Duration Finger Millet Varieties for Semi-Arid Areas (for food): To bolster agricultural resilience in semi-arid regions, ICRISAT's focus is on developing short-duration finger millet varieties. These cultivars are well-suited to regions with limited water availability and unpredictable rainfall patterns. By optimizing the maturity duration, grain yield, and stover yield of these varieties, farmers can expect improved productivity even in challenging environments.

 Medium- to Long-Duration Finger Millet Varieties for Sub-Humid and High-Altitude Areas (for food and malting): In sub-humid and high-altitude regions, ICRISAT is directing its efforts towards medium- to long-duration finger millet varieties. These cultivars are tailored to thrive in areas with relatively better moisture conditions and varying altitudes. Apart from ensuring food security, these varieties are also suitable for malting purposes, adding value to the crop and diversifying its potential uses.

The key traits being considered under these market segments encompass a range of factors crucial for the success of finger millet cultivation in these specific regions. These traits include maturity duration, grain yield, stover yield, blast resistance (to counter a common disease threat), synchronous maturity of tillers (promoting uniformity in crop development), calcium content (important for nutritional enrichment), and seed color (aesthetic and market preferences).

ICRISAT's diligent attention to these market segments and the associated traits serves as a strategic approach to ensure that finger millet breeding aligns precisely with the needs and challenges faced by farmers and consumers. By emphasizing these specific market segments, ICRISAT seeks to contribute significantly to agricultural sustainability, food security, and enhanced nutrition in regions where finger millet plays a critical role in livelihoods and local food systems.

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