“ Millets are one of the oldest foods known to humans & possibly the first cereal grain to be used for domestic purposes ”
Millets are small-seeded grasses that are hardy and grow well in dry zones as rain-fed crops, under marginal conditions of soil fertility and moisture. Millets are also unique due to their short growing season. They can develop from planted seeds to mature, ready to harvest plants in as little as 65 days. This is important in heavily populated areas. When properly stored, whole millets will keep for two or more years.
Millets are highly nutritious, non-glutinous and not acid forming foods. Hence they are soothing and easy to digest. They are considered to be the least allergenic and most digestible grains available. Compared to Paddy rice, especially polished Paddy rice, millets release lesser percentage of glucose and over a longer period of time. This lowers the risk of diabetes...More here
Millets are particularly high in minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. Finger millet (Ragi) is the richest in calcium content, about 10 times that of Paddy rice or wheat.
Unlike Paddy rice and wheat that require many inputs in terms of soil fertility and water, millets grow well in dry regions as rain-fed crops. By eating millets, we will be encouraging farmers in dry land areas to grow crops that are best suited for those regions. This is a step towards sustainable cropping practices where by introducing diversity in our diets, we respect the biodiversity in nature rather than forcefully changing cropping patterns to grow wheat and Paddy rice everywhere.
There are many co-operatives of small farmers that are working on providing livelihoods to farmers while at the same time focusing on ecological preservation. In dry land regions, these groups encourage the farmers to produce crops that are local to those regions, that thrive best there – Millets. By incorporating Millets into our diets, we will be supporting these groups. Learn more about these groups here
Foxtail millet is regarded as a native of China, it is one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops. Known from the Yang-Shao culture period dating back about 5000 years.
Foxtail millet ranks second in the total world production of millets and continues to have an important place in the world agriculture providing approximately six million tons of food to millions of people, mainly on poor or marginal soils in southern Europe and in temperate, subtropical and tropical Asia. It will grow in altitudes from sea level to 2000 m. It cannot tolerate water logging.
Foxtail millet is fairly tolerant of drought; it can escape some droughts because of early maturity. Due to its quick growth, it can be grown as a short-term catch crop. It is adapted to a wide range of elevations, soils and temperatures. Its grain is used for human consumption and as feed for poultry and cage birds.
Proso millet was domesticated in Manchuria and introduced to Europe about 3000 years ago, followed by introduction in the Near East and India. It is the milium of the Romans and the true millet of history. Proso millet is well adapted to many soil and climatic conditions. Being a short season crop with low water requirement, it grows further north than the other millets and also adapts well to plateau conditions and high elevations. Proso is found high in mountains; in the former USSR up to 1200 m and in India up to 3500 m.
Proso millet generally matures between 60-90 days after planting and can be grown successfully in poor soil and hot dry weather. It is an easy crop to grow and it seems to be better adapted than most crops to primitive agricultural practices.
Proso millet requires very little water, possibly the lowest water requirement of any cereal, and converts water most efficiently to dry matter/grain. This is not because of its drought resistance but because of its short growing season.
Kodo millet was domesticated in India almost 3000 years ago. It is found across the old world in humid habitats of tropics and subtropics. It is a minor grain crop in India and an important crop in the Deccan plateau.
The fiber content of the whole grain is very high. Kodo millet has around 11% protein, and the nutritional value of the protein has been found to be slightly better than that of foxtail millet but comparable to that of other small millets. As with other food grains, the nutritive value of Kodo millet protein could be improved by supplementation with legume protein
Little millet was domesticated in India. It represents the weedy progenitor of P.psilopodium grown throughout India to a limited extent up to altitudes of 2100 m, but is of little importance elsewhere. The seeds of little millet are smaller than those of common millet.
Little millet is another reliable catch crop in view of its earliness and resistance to adverse agro-climatic conditions. The stover is a good fodder for cattle.
E. crusgalli domesticated in Japan 4000 years ago and E.colona domesticated in India. Barnyard millet is the fastest growing of all millets and produces a crop in six weeks. It is grown in India, Japan and China as a substitute for rice when the paddy crop fails. The plant has attracted some attention as a fodder in the United States and Japan.
Finger millet is originally native to the Ethiopian highlands and was introduced into India approximately 4000 years ago. It is highly adaptable to higher elevations and is grown in the Himalayas up to an altitude of 2300 m.
It is the most important small millet in the tropics (12% of global millet area) and is cultivated in more than 25 countries in Africa (eastern and southern) and Asia (from Near East to Far East), predominantly as a staple food grain. The major producers are Uganda, India, Nepal, and China. Finger millet has high yield potential (>10 t/ha under optimum irrigated conditions) and grain stores very well.
Sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop and is the dietary staple of more than 500 million people in more than 30 countries. It is grown on 42 m ha in 98 countries of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Nigeria, India, USA, Mexico, Sudan, China and Argentina are the major producers. Other sorghum producing countries are Mauritania, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Somalia and Yemen, Chad, Sudan, Tanzania and Mozambique.
Grain is mostly for food purpose (55 %), consumed in the form of flat breads and porridges (thick or thin); stover is an important source of dry season maintenance rations for livestock, especially in Asia; also an important feed grain (33%), especially in the Americas.
Pearl millet is annually grown cereal on more than 29 m ha in the arid and semi-arid tropical regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
India is the largest producer of pearl millet, both in terms of area (9.3 m ha) and production (8.3 m ton) (Figure 1). As compared to the early 1980's, the pearl millet area in India declined by 19%, but production increased by 28%, owing to a 64% increase in productivity
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Composition of small millets, wheat & rice (100g)
Know your Millets ?