Millets - Sorghum, Pearl millet, Finger millet, Small millets (Barnyard, Common, Kodo,Little, Foxtail). All millets, Maize & Barley are known as Coarse cereals


India with its diversified agricultural assets in terms of soil, rainfall and climate has abundant crop diversity. Owing to their several drought tolerance characteristics, their cultivation in drought prone areas for providing food for human consumption, feed & fodder for animal and poultry, use as fuel and industrial uses are in common. During drought condition, it helps in generating employment in low rainfall areas where other alternative crops are limited and these crops are used as a contingent crop. As an assured source of income, these coarse cereals offer a better role during distress environment. A variety of coarse cereals are grown throughout the country in different ecology, agro-climatic condition, but mostly as rainfed crop. Sorghum, pearl millet, maize, barley, finger millet and several small millets such as kodo millet, little millet, foxtail millet, proso millet and barnyard millet together called coarse cereals. Sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, maize and small millets (barnyard millet, proso millet, kodo millet and foxtail millet) are also called nutri-cereals.

Millets are ancient Super grains the reservoirs of nutrition for a better health. Millets (sorghum, pearl millet and small millets) are the important food and fodder crops in semi-arid regions, and are predominantly gaining more importance in a world that is increasingly becoming populous, malnourished and facing large climatic uncertainties. These crops are adapted to wide range of temperatures, moisture-regimes and input conditions supplying food and feed to millions of dryland farmers, particularly in the developing world. Besides they also form important raw material for potable alcohol and starch production in industrialized countries. Millets (great millet-Sorghum, pearl millet-Bajara, Finger millet-Ragi, Foxtail millet, Little millet, Proso millet, Barnyard millet and Kodo millet) are hardy and grow well in dry zones as rainfed crops, under marginal conditions of soil fertility and moisture and are stable yielders.

Millets were indeed one of the oldest foods known to humans but they were discarded in favor of wheat and rice with urbanization and industrialization. Other millets that need we will also be focusing also are Brown top Millet (Brachiaria ramosa), Crap grass (Digitaria cruciata). With diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease running rampant, as gifts of newly acquired life-styles, millets have returned as a viable option to live healthy life without consuming loads of anti-diabetic and anti-hypertension medicines that are not only very expansive but also have serious side-effects in the long run. Indeed millets act as a prebiotic feeding micro-flora in our inner ecosystem. Millet will hydrate our colon to keep us from being constipated. The high levels of tryptophan in millet produce serotonin, which is calming to our moods. Magnesium in millet can help reduce the affects of migraines and heart attacks. Niacin (vitamin B-3) in millet can help lower cholesterol. Millet consumption decreases Triglycerides and C-reactive protein, thereby preventing cardiovascular disease. All millet varieties show high antioxidant activity. Millet is gluten free and non allergenic.

Above all, Millet’s high protein content makes up for energy deficiency in vegetarian diet. Millets are the super foods for the present and future., their short growing season - from planted seeds to mature, ready to harvest plants in as little as 65 days make them commercially sound. When properly stored, whole millets will keep for two or more years. The challenge is to food-process millet in to tasty and ready to eat foods like biscuits, noodles and pre baked roties and of course as Ready to eat and Ready to cook novel foods. Indian Institute of Millets Research is working in that direction to fetch better income to the Millet growers. In order to keep up the momentum and the sustainability of commercialization process, Entrepreneurship development of the stakeholders is necessitated through interventions in food processing and product development and nutritional evaluation. Creating sustainable value chain has been one of the greatest challenges for the social scientists and research institutions at large. Therefore the ultimate goal of entrepreneurship development programmes is to disseminate thorough knowledge of post-harvest management which includes linkage of farmers with market, processing, nutritional importance of sorghum, and marketing. The stakeholders were trained who includes progressive farmers, rural entrepreneurs, NGOs, SHGs, small and medium scale processors, women group entrepreneurs on topics such as Nutritional importance of sorghum and millets, Post Harvest Technologies of Sorghum/ Millets, and Branding, Packaging and labeling.

Government policy is bound to be in favour of support for promotion of sorghum/millets due to increasing population growth rate and unmet demand for food consumption by the rice and wheat. Thus, it is expected that the Government policies are going to be strengthened for millet promotion during different plan periods. Further, it is expected that creation of awareness is being given more importance so as to generate consumption demand owing to nutritional merits of sorghum, pearl millet and small millets. The increasing incidence of lifestyle diseases which are linked with relatively poor nutritive composition of fine cereals especially rice, the promotion of nutri-cereals such as sorghum will be more pronounced owing to their superior composition of nutrients and minerals. It is also expected that millets as health food is being included in PDS (Public Distribution System) which may gain some area under sorghum, pearl millet and small millets.

Milletsare a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food. Millets are important crops in the semiarid tropics of Asia and Africa (especially in India Mali Nigeria Niger), with 97% of millet production in developing countries The crop is favoured due to its productivity and short growing season under dry, high-temperature conditions. The most widely grown millet is pearl millet, which is an important crop in India and parts of Africa. Finger millet proso millet, and foxtail milletare also important crop species.

The name “Millet” has been derived from the word “mil or thousand” is referring to the large number of grains that can be produced from a single seed. However, the Hindi word “Kadann” has come from a Sanskrit word “Kadannam”, which refers to foodgrains of the poor or “Nindit Ann”, which does not hold good in true sense, because, some of the millets like barnyard millets and Pseudo millet (Amaranthus and buck wheat) are used by the devotees during their fast and these commodities are rich in nutritive values. Millets is a group of several crops. The list of crops covered under millets along with their botanical and common names is given below in Table-1.

Table-1: Nomenclature of millets

Sl. No.

Common name

Botanical name

Local name (Hindi)

(A) Millets under cultivation



Sorghum bicolor (L.)



Pearl millet

Pennisetum glaucum (L.)



Finger millet

Eleusine coracana (L.)



Barnyard millet

Echinochloa frumentacea (L.)



Proso millet

Panicum miliaceum (L.)



Foxtail millet

Setaria italica



Kodo millet

Paspalum scrobiculatum (L.)



Little millet

Panicum sumatrense


(B) Lesser known millets


Brown top millet

Brachiaria ramosa (L.)



Crap grass

Digitaria cruciata


(C) Extinct millet


Jobs tear millet

Coix lacryma (L.)


(D) Pseudo millet


Purple amaranththus

Amaranthus cruentus



Buck wheat

Fagopyrum esculentum &

F. tataricum (L.)



1. Nutritive values of millets:


The nutritive value of millets is given in Table-2. These crops contains substantially high amount of protein, fibre and minerals in comparison to fine cereals like wheat and rice. The protein content in millets like Jowar (10.4), Bajra (11.6), Proso millet (12.5), foxtail millet (12.5) and barnyard millet (11.6) is comparable with wheat (11.8) and much higher than rice (6.8). Though the finger millet contains lesser protein (7.3), but it is rich in mineral matter and calcium in comparison to wheat and rice. Finger millet is the richest source of calcium (344 mg/100 gram grains). All the millets contain more fibre than fine cereals. Particularly, the small millets namely barnyard millet (14.7), Kodo millet (9) little millet (8.6) and foxtail millet (8.0) are the richest in fibre in comparison to wheat (1.2) and rice (0.2). Therefore, millets are now being pronounced as “Miracle grains/Adbhut Anaj and nutria-cereals”.

Table-2:  Proximate composition of Millets, Coarse cereals and fine cereals (Per 100 g)








Crude fibre


Mineral matter







10. 4

72. 6

1. 9

 1. 6

1. 6



Pearl millet

11. 6

67. 5

5. 0

 1. 2

2. 3



Finger millet

 7. 3

72. 0

1. 3

 3. 6

2. 7



Proso millet

12. 5

70. 4

1. 1

 2. 2

1. 9



Foxtail millet

12. 3

60. 9

4. 3

 8. 0

3. 3



Kodo millet

 8. 3

65. 9

1. 4

 9. 0

2. 6



Little millet

 8. 7

75. 7

5. 3

 8. 6

1. 7



Barnyard millet

11. 6

74. 3

5. 8

14. 7

4. 7




















11. 8

71. 2

1. 5

 1. 2

1. 5




 6. 8

78. 2

0. 5

 0. 2

0. 6



Source: National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad


A perusal of the above table indicates that these cereals are nutritionally superior to wheat & rice owing to their higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fibre & minerals (Iron, Zinc, Phosphorous).

2. Promotion of coarse cereals

In our country, coarse cereal crops are grown in areas where fine cereals like wheat and rice cannot be grown profitably. Coarse cereals except maize, are adapted to low or no purchased inputs and to harsh environment of the semi-arid tropics (SAT), and therefore forms the backbone for dry land agriculture. Coarse cereals are traditionally grown in resource poor agro-climatic regions of the country and are photo-insensitive & resilient to climate change.

India holds 4th position in the world in coarse cereals production after USA, China & Brazil but the amount produced is only 3.3 % (43.3 million ton) of the global coarse cereal production (1322 million ton) during 2013.

In India, coarse cereals are grown over an area of 25.17 million ha (20% of total food grain area) with a production of 43.30 million ton during 2014-15 and contributed about 17% to national food basket. More than 85% coarse cereals in India are produced in Karnataka (6.83 million ton), Rajasthan (6.43 million ton), Maharashtra (5.96 million ton), UP (3.80 million ton), Telengana (2.90 million ton), Tamilnadu (2.82 million ton), MP (2.55 million ton), AP (2.49 million ton), Bihar (2.14 million ton) and Gujarat (2.12 million ton).

The area of coarse cereals except maize has declined after inception of green revolution and the area of coarse cereals reduced from 44.35 million ha in 1965-66 to 25.17 million ha in 2014-15 i.e. 43%. Despite 43% area reduction of coarse cereals, the production has increased from 19.5 million ton to 43.3 million ton i.e. 122%.   

Millions of people around the world suffer from ‘hidden hunger’ of micronutrient. They do not get enough micronutrients required to lead healthy productive lives from the foods that they eat. Malnutrition in India, especially among children and women, is widespread, acute and even alarming. As per a Global Survey Report (July, 2012) India is ranked at 112 among the 141 nations as regards Child Development Index (CDI) and 42% of children in India are underweight and 58% of children are stunted by two years of age. More than 70% of Indian women and kids have serious nutritional deficiencies. Most commonly observed deficiencies in unbalanced diet are iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), calcium (Ca), etc.

Traditionally we consume various varieties of coarse grain. The urban way of life cuts down the meaning of balanced diet by excluding the coarse grain combination in our daily meal plan.

Coarse cereals have been dubbed as poor man’s crops for long, have remained neglected with respect to their appropriate position in the commercialized food system, and investment in development. With increasing concerns about adverse changes in environmental quality and its consequent effects on food and nutritional security and perceived need for increasing food production per unit resource investment for an ever increasing population, these coarse cereals have good prospects of penetrating the food baskets of a wider range of consumers, both rural & urban and poor & rich, in the country. Coarse cereals have larger stake in household food security specifically nutritional both for human food, feed and fodder for livestock. Further, these crops have low water requirement being C4 plant, wider adaptability to varied ecologists/climate; environment friendly with low consumption of pesticides, best suited for contingency planning with larger stake of small, marginal and farmers.

Therefore, to overcome the targeted hunger and mitigate the effect of climate change in long run, there is a need to accelerate the production of coarse cereals in the country.


Copyrights 2016 | Directorate of Millets Development | All rights reserved |
Designed & Developed By NIC,Jaipur

Last Updated On:Monday 01 May 2017
Best Viewed in Mozilla Firefox 24.0