Various Particulars of Ragi (finger millets) Eleusine
In India Finger millet is know as Ragi
Ragi is the main food grain for many peoples, especially in dry areas of India and Sri
Lanka. Grain is higher in protein, fat and minerals than rice, corn, or sorghum (Reed,
1976). It is usually converted into flour and made into cakes, Puddings, or porridge.
When consumed as food it provides a sustaining diet, especially for people doing hard
work. Straw makes valuable fodder for both working and milking animals. A
fermented drink or beer is made from the grain. Grain may also be malted and a flour
of the malted grain used as a nourishing food for infants and invalids. Ragi is
considered an especially wholesome food for diabetics.
Ragi in India is eated by making flour and ragi balls. They make flat breads (Roti) and
eaten with various
The leaf juice has been given to women in childbirth, and the plant is reported to be
diaphoretic, diuretic, and vermifuge (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962). Ragi is a
folk remedy for leprosy, liver disease (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962), measles,
pleurisy, pneumonia, and small pox (Duke and Wain, 1981).
Per 100 g, the straw is reported to contain (ZMB): 3.7 g protein, 0.9 g fat, 87.3 g total
carbohydrate, 35.9 g fiber, 8.1 g ash, 1110 mg Ca, 160 mg P, 260 mg Na, and 1500
mg K (C.S.I.R., 1948-1976). Per 100 g, the wet matter is reported to contain (ZMB):
7.6 g protein, 1.1 g fat, 76.2 g total carbohydrate, 33.6 g fiber, 15.1 g ash (Gohl,
1981). The plant yields hydrocyanic acid (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962).
Ragi has the highest Calcium content and good fiber content. This is a very good
source of calcium for growing children and aged people who need calcium
Several value added recipes are available that are generated from our University
Home economics department.
Annual grass; culms erect, laterally flattened, 60-120 cm tall or long, profusely
tillering, in addition to branches sent out at the rounded nodes in succession, plants
often lodged or prostrate; root system fibrous and remarkably strong, permeating soil
thoroughly, inflorescence a whorl of 2-8 (normally 4-6), digitate, straight, or slightly
curved spikes 12.5-15 cm long, about 1.3 cm broad; spikelets about 70, arranged
alternately on rachis, each containing 4-7 seeds, varying from 1-2 mm in diameter;
caryopsis nearly globose to somewhat flattened, smooth or tugose, reddish-brown to
nearly white or black.
Reported from the Hindustani and African Centers of Diversity, ragi or cvs thereof is
reported to tolerate alkali, disease, drought, fungus, high pH, insects, laterite, low pH,
mildew, salt, slope, and virus (Duke, 1978). Over 20 varieties of ragi are cultivated in
India. The numerous races under cultivation are primarily divided into purple and
green types; those with straight or open spikes, encurved or closed spikes, or branched
spikes; length of earheads (5-10 cm long); color of seeds (deep brown to shade of
orange-red to almost white or black); dwarf in habit (45 cm tall) to up to 1.3 m tall;
poor tillering to profuse tillering; early or late maturing; suitable for growing under
irrigation to growing in dry areas. Many named cultivars are involved in breeding
trials in India. Most improvement is sought in increasing yields, resistance to lodging,
even maturity and loose panicle. Strains of white ragi, 'EC 1540', gives superior
nutritive value, up to 14% protein, compared to pigmented types, which range from 6-
11%. 'Relluchodi' a hill type, is green throughout, with long open type panicle and
maturing in 115-120 days. 'AKP-2', is green throughout, with incurved panicle,
maturing in 85-90 days. E. coracana is mostly self-pollinated. (2n = 36)
Considered to be of Indian or African origin, perhaps a cultigen of the wild species
Eleusine indica. Widely cultivated in tropical Asia and East Africa; cultivated on
rainy slopes and upland areas of Himalayas up to 2,300 m elevation.
Ranging from Cool Temperate Moist to Wet through Tropical Very Dry to Wet Forest
Life Zones, ragi is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 2.9 to 42.9 dm (mean of
19 cases = 12.3) annual temperature of 11.1 to 27.4°C (mean of 19 cases = 20.8) and
pH of 5.0 to 8.2 (mean of 17 cases = 6.4) (Duke, 1978, 1979). Typically a tropical
crop, one of the best suited for dry farming, generally grown rainfed. Thrives under a
medium rainfall, on porous soils that do not get waterlogged. With rainfall of 53-75
cm, it is cultivated rainfed; with less, it is irrigated. Ragi is very adaptable and thrives
at higher elevations than most other tropical cereals. Cultivated on soils ranging from
rich loams to poor shallow upland soils. In India, grown on black cotton soils, but
thrives on red lateritic loams. Ragi stands salinity better than most cereals.
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 seed are broadcast or drilled, in rows 7.5-30 cm apart. In some areas,
furrows are opened 25-30 cm apart and seeds sown along with well-rotted manure.
Seed rate varies from 21-38 kg/ha. Sometimes seed is sown in nurseries and seedlings
outplanted when 3-4 weeks old. Eleven kg seed provides seedlings for a hectare.
Transplanting is common where early rains are uncertain. In India, two crops are
sown: the early crop is grown from May to August, and the main crop, from July to
Novermber or early December. It is also grown year-round under irrigation wherever
water is available. Ragi is monocropped in India under irrigation or transplantation.
Rainfed it is mostly intercropped with cereals, castor bean, niger, groundnut, pulses
and gingeli. 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. Artificial fertilizers are usually applied near close of intercultural operations.
Inorganic nitrogen depresses crop yields on poor land, but enhances yields on fertile
land. Phosphate acts as a limiting factor controlling response to nitrogen. Minute
amounts of zinc sulfate increase yields of both grain and straw. Seed inocculated with
B. azotobacter increases yield. Ragi is chopped and weeded at intervals of 14 days or
so. The number and frequency of irrigations varies with seasonal conditions. Ragi
requires more water than jowar (Sorghum bicolor) (Reed, 1976). Cowsik and
Jayachandra (1981) found that hardening ragi seeds with distilled water and phenolic
acids (caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and vanillic acid) hastened germination and imparted
resistance to the respective allelopathic agents; in addition, dry matter production was
increased by 10-40%.
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. Separated grains are winnowed and cleaned.
Under irrigated conditions, crop is harvested about 3.5 months after transplanting.
Earheads are gathered when they ripen; three or four pickings are usually required to
collect all earheads from a field. These are heaped up, and when dry, threshed. Straw
from irrigated plants is coarse and thick and is rarely cut. It is grazed down or
sometimes turned under as manure for next crop.
Yields and Economics
Seed yield is 5 MT/ha (Duke, 1978). Ragi grain possesses excellent storage properties
and is said to improve in quality with storage. Seed can be stored without damage for
as long as 50 years. They are highly valued as a reserve food in times of famine. Yield
depends on variety and is directly related to duration, height and tillering capacity of
type grown. Types with straight spikes give better yields than those with curved
spikes. Ragi is the principal cereal crop for many peoples in India, Sri Lanka, and East
Africa. In India over 2.5 million hectares are cultivated annually. Although it does not
enter international markets, it is a very important cereal grain in areas of adaptation.
According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity ranges from 2 to
9 MT/ha. Yields under irrigated conditions are nearly double those on rainfed land.
Yield of straw varies from 1.1-2.2 MT/ha from rainfed crops, and 4.4-8.8 MT/ha from
irrigated crops. Grain yield is correlated with plant height, grain weight of main ear
and days to 50% maturity. In Punjab, where ragi is grown mainly for fodder, yields of
green fodder average 13.5 MT/ha in three cuttings (Reed, 1976). Bogdan (1977)
reports 15 MT green fodder/ha in 3 cuts; and for straw, 1.12-2.24 MT/ha for dryland
crops and up to 8.96 MT for irrigated crops.
Ragi is subject to relatively few serious diseases or pests. Fungi reported on ragi
include: Cladosporium herbarum, Cercospora fusimaculans, Cochliobolus nodulosus,
Curvularia lunata, Helminthosporium leucostylum, H. nodulosum (leafspot or blight),
H. tetramera, Melanopsichum eleusinis (smut), Pellicularia rolfsii, Phyllachora
eleusine, Piricularia eleusine, P. grisea, P. oryzae, P. setariae, Sclerospora
macrospora, Sclerotium rolfsii. A strain of sugarcane mosaicz virus also attacks ragi.
Ragi is parasitized by the following species of Striga: S. asiatica, S. densiflora, S.
hermonthica, and S. lutea. Nematodes known to attack ragi include: Meloidogyne sp.,
and Scutellonema sp. Insect pests include: hairy caterpillar (Amsacta albistriga), Jola
grasshopper (Colemania sphenarioides), ragi pink shoot-borer (Sesamia inferens), and
ragi leaf-roller (Marasamia trapezalis). In storage, a beetle (Alphitobius sp.) may
cause some damage.
Finger millet, African millet, Indian millet, rupuko, ragi
Stout annual up to 120 cm high grown as a cereal in tropical, Africa and Asia. Also
used as a fodder catch crop. Called finger millet because the inflorescence resembles a
human hand with the palm turned upward and the fingers, partially contracted.
Matures in 4-5 months. Tolerates under 130 mm of rainfall if well distributed.
Once the grain ripens, the plant loses its high feed value. Straw from the irrigated crop
is fibrous but improves after stacking, as fermentation makes it more palatable and
less tough. Rainfed straw is of better quality and readily consumed by stock.
As % of dry matter
CP CF Ash EE NFE Ref
Fresh, late vegetative, India 7.6 33.6 15.1 1.1 42.6 378
Fresh, dough stage, India .28.8 12.5 1.7 49.9 "
Straw, India 3.2 34.2 7.9 1.3 53.4 "
Silage, from straw, India 3.6 38.8 9.6 1.5 46.5 436
CP CF EE NFE ME Ref
Straw 16.0 79.6 47.0 59.3 2.20 378
Straw silage 8.0 69.0 44.0 52.0 1.90 436
Jeevans House has three
decades tradition in natural
products. The flagship product
'Ragitone babyfood enriched
with Ragi (Eleusine Coracana,
gaertn) is a household name all
over India. Sister lines
Ragivitta, food supplement for
diabetic patients and Jeevans
Baby Massage Oil are gaining
popularity day by day.
Way back in 1972 a young
entrepreneur K.P. Gopinath
boldly stepped into baby food
manufacturing. Till then the
industry was dominated by
giant transnationals. Local
companies could not even
dream of daring into the