Finger millet, Eleusine coracana L., is also known as African millet, koracan, ragi (India). It
is an important staple food in parts of eastern and central Africa and India. It is an
important cereal in Karnataka. It is extensively grown in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra
pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, Gujrat and Maharashtra and in the hilly regions of Uttar Pradesh
and himachal Pradesh, with a total area of 2.5 million hectares and 2.2 million tonnes of
The height of cultivars varies from 40 cm to I m and the spike length
ranges from 3 to 13 cm. The colour of grains may vary from white through orange-red deep
brown and purple, to almost black. The grains are smaller than those of pearl millet, and
the mean I 000-seed weight is about 2.6 g.
Ragi may be grown as a hot weather crop, from May to September, using long duration varieties
and as a cold season crop, from November and December, using early types. Ragi is
monocropped in India under irrigation or transplantation. Rainfed it is mostly
intercropped with cereals, castor bean, niger, groundnut and pulses. The most common
subsidiary crops grown with ragi are fieldbean (Lablab purpureus), pigeon pea (Cajanus
cajan), cowpea (Vigna sinensis), and niger (Guizotia abysinnica). With groundnuts, ragi is
the subsidiary crop. Liberal manure, mainly sheep and cattle, is applied. Green manures
such as cowpeas, sunnhemp, artificial manures and oil cakes, have been used on both
irrigated and unirrigated crops. Ragi is chopped and weeded at intervals of 14 days or so.
The number and frequency of irrigations varies with seasonal conditions.
Harvesting and Yields :
Ragi matures 3-5 months after sowing, depending on variety, season and soil properties. Rainfed
crops are cut close to ground, stalks are allowed to wither for a day or two in field, and
then bundled and stacked for about 2 months before threshing. To separate the grains,
dried earheads are beaten with sticks, sheaves are trodden by bullocks or crushed by stone
rollers. The average yield of the rain-fed crop ranges from 10 to 15 q/ha, whereas the
irrigated crop yields up to 40 or 50 q/ha. The fodder yield ranges from 30-90 q/ha in the
case of the late groups.