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Finger Millet (Ragi) Farming in India: An Informational Guide

Finger Millet, also known as Ragi, is India’s most popular food grain after wheat, maize, and rice. It is a staple dry land crop cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions. States like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala are the key producers of finger millet in India.

Health Benefits of Finger Millet

Eating finger millet provides numerous health benefits to its consumers. It is a rich source of calcium that helps increase bone strength. Besides, it is good for digestive health, hence helping reduce weight. Finger millet may help regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and treat anaemia. Its anti-aging properties improve skin health.

High-Yielding Finger Millet Varieties in India

There are plenty of high-yield finger millet varieties in India that are utilized for quality crop cultivation. These finger millet varieties include CO-9, CO-13, CO (Ra)-14, Dodda, Gidda, Hullubele, Jadesanga, Jasarilambi, Madayyanagiri-1, Madayyanagiri-2, among others.

Agro Climate Requirements for Ragi Cultivation

Ragi cultivation requires temperatures between 30 and 34 degrees Celsius during the day. At night, temperatures between 22 and 25 degrees Celsius are considered ideal for optimal growth. Besides, good sunshine and annual rainfall of about 100cm are best for a flourishing crop.

Soil Requirements

A wide range of soils, ranging from rich loam to poor shallow upland soils, are considered best for millet farming. The only thing that is required is the rich content of organic matter in these soil types. Furthermore, porous/light red loam/sandy loam soil with good internal drainage is good for finger millet farming. Even ragi cultivators can also consider black soils with good drainage because they are tolerant to water stagnation. The soils with a pH of 4.5 to 8.0 are ideal for successful finger millet farming. On the other hand, heavy clay soils with poor water drainage should be avoided.

Land Preparation

The land preparation for ragi cultivation is different depending on rainfed and irrigated conditions. If there are rainfed conditions in the region, the crop can get 80 cm of rainfall. The mainland should be ploughed 2 or 3 times deeply to conserve moisture content in the soil. For irrigated conditions, the land should be ploughed till the fine tilth upon monsoon arrival. Whatever the conditions are, farmers can use an Eicher mini tractor with appropriate farming implements

Propagation and Sowing Methods in Finger Millet Farming

Seeds propagate finger millet farming. Several sowing methods are used for the rainfed crop of Finger millet, which will be discussed here.

Broadcasting: This is the most common method used for seed sowing. Finger millet seeds are directly sown in the field by broadcasting.

Drilling in rows: This method uses a drill to sow seeds in the field. Sowing seeds using a seed cum fertilizer drill is highly beneficial in line sowing.

Line Sowing: According to the name of the sowing method, finger millet seeds are sown in lines. The line-sowing method is way better than the broadcasting method. In the line sowing method, cultivators need to maintain a space of 22 cm to 30 cm between lines. Within lines, this space should be 8 cm to 10 cm. While sowing finger millet seeds, the seed sowing depth should be about 3 cm in the soil.

Transplanting the seedlings: Transplanting is a process wherein seedlings are raised in nursery beds and then transplanted to the main field. During transplanting, levelling and watering of beds are highly necessary. Seedlings of 4 weeks of age should be transplanted in the field. For early Rabi and Kharif season, seedlings should be transplanted at 25x10cm and for late Kharif season at 30cm x 10cm. Planting should be done at 3 cm depth in the soil.

Manures and Fertilizers Requirements

For finger millet farming, farmers should use 13 tonnes of farm yard manure per hectare in the soil. Besides, they can apply fertilizers like NPK depending on the region and soil. Different states have different requirements for irrigated and rainfed conditions. For a better understanding, ragi cultivation in Tamil Nadu requires an NPK of 30:30:30 kg/ha at the time of seeding sowing. On the other hand, Karnataka requires 50:50:50 kg/ha of NPK at the time of seed sowing. For other regions, farmers should first test the soil fertility and accordingly apply NPK to the soil. To bring farm yard manure or fertilizers to the field, farmers can use a VST mini tractor with a trolley.

Irrigation in Finger Millet Farming

The irrigation requirement in finger millet farming depends on the soil type. For a better understanding, we are discussing irrigation for red soils and heavy soils. The first irrigation for both soils is done immediately after seed sowing. The second irrigation is on the 3rd day after sowing for red soils and the 4th day after planting for heavy soils. The third irrigation is done on the 7th day and 9th day, respectively.

Subsequently, the fourth irrigation is done on the 12th day after sowing for red soils and the 16th day after planting for heavy soils. The fifth irrigation is needed to be done on red soils only on the 17th day after sowing. Following these irrigation timings will help you cultivate a profitable ragi crop.

Pests and Diseases in Ragi Cultivation

In finger millet cultivation, Aphids, Cutworms, Earhead bugs, Finger Millet leaf hoppers and Grasshoppers are some of the main pests found. The main diseases in finger millet crop are Blast and Mosaic. For symptoms and control measures for these pests and diseases, you can consult your nearest agriculture department.

Harvesting of Finger Millet

Finger millet crop starts flowering in 2 to 3 months and gets ready for harvest in 4 to 5 months period. While harvesting, the crop should be cut above ground level and kept in the sun to dry for 2 to 3 days. Cultivators can use bullocks or sticks to separate seeds from the plants. They can bring the commercial yield to the nearest market by using aMahindra mini tractor attached to a trolley.

The Yield of Finger Millet/Ragi

Finger millet/ragi yield completely depends on used cultivation practices and the variety cultivated. Farmers can expect an average yield of 12 to 15 quintals/ha for rainfed crops. For the irrigated crop, the yield increased to 40 to 45 quintals/ha.