Return of the forgotten crop – Brown top millet

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Read full article By Anitha Reddy and Krishna Prasad G @LeisIndia Photo Credit: Krishna Prasad

More than 2000 farmers across Karnataka are cultivating Korale, owing to its various merits.

Millets, a staple food in Karnataka, is making a comeback. Farmers are reviving cultivation of brown top millet, a minor millet which can be grown on degraded soils with very little water. Besides being an answer to climate change crisis, brown top millet with its high nutrition content could also be an answer to deal with malnutrition among the rural poor and lifestyle diseases among the urban and semiurban India.

Browntop millet or signalgrass as it is commonly called, is one of the rarest among millets. Being native to India, it grows well in the dryland tracts of Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border areas, covering regions of Tumkur,Chitradurga and Chikkaballapura districts in Karnataka and Ananthpur district in Andhra Pradesh.

Termed Korale in Kannada and Andakorra in Telugu, Brown top millet is also grown and consumed in limited quantities in north central India – the region commonly referred to as Bundelkhand.

Browntop millet is drought hardy and heat tolerant, but can also be planted in low areas that get flooded. The shadow tolerant nature of Korale makes it distinct from other crops. The shade loving crop grows well even under tamarind trees.Thus, the practice of farmers growing browntop millet under the tamarind tree shade is still prevalent in places like Pavagada, Madhugiri and Sira in Karnataka. In these regions, millets form the staple diet of the people. The crop survives under arid conditions and has the potential to spread widely because of its rich nutritional value as well as its ability to adapt to climate change.

It is planted in mid-April until mid-August in most locations, though later plantings will result in lower yields. It can be planted either as a sole crop or in combination with other seasonal crops. It is also an excellent choice when combined with other millets. In fact, redgram is grown as a mixed crop – for every 12 rows of browntop millet.

Browntop millet is remarkable for its early maturing ability. The crop is harvested in 75 to 80 days. Some farmers growit for fodder purpose only and harvest within 50 days. Because of its very short maturity, it can be planted as late as August and still offers ample supply of grains. It survives even if monsoon is delayed. It requires a little bit of moisture during sowing and one or two rains later, for the crop to grow and mature. Even with broadcasting method, the crop yields about 7 to 8 quintal grains per acre and four tractor loads of good quality fodder which cattle relish.

Browntop millet is not only nutritious but also very delicious. The millet is gluten free and rich in essential nutrients. It is a rich source of natural fibre, when compared to other grains. Korale contains about 12.5% fibre due to which it serves as medicine for dealing with life style diseases. Lower incidence of cardiovascular diseases, duodenal ulcer and hyperglycemia (diabetes) are reported among those who regularly consume millets.

The browntop millet is known for its rapid forage production. It is grown for several other purposes as well – as cover crop in coconut and arecanut groves, for soil erosion control and for high straw production. It suppresses root-knot nematode in the soil. The sharp leaf structure of the plant obstructs the intrusion of rats into the fields. Hence, farmers grow this crop also to control rodents in coconut and arecanut groves.

Millets make a comeback
Continuous drought in Mysore and Mandya district for three years brought back millet cultivation in these areas. Mandya farmers always enjoyed the water flow from Krishna Raja Sagar Dam for both kharif and rabi crops. But due to water shortage in the previous years, they were forced to look at alternatives to replace irrigated crops. The workshop and millet mela organised by Sahaja Samruddha, in 2015, made farmers to think beyond the irrigated crops like paddy and sugarcane. The farmers at the workshop were introduced to millets as alternative crops during rabi season. Since most of the millet varieties, particularly browntop millet, are drought resistant, farmers experimented with millets andwere successful with record yield.

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Posted on

January 4, 2021

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