Promoting minor millets for food and nutritional security

A. Kumar, S. Kumar, A. Kumar, S. Kumar
The term millet includes a number of small grained cereal grasses, According to the grain size, millets have been categorized as major millets which include sorghum and pearl millet and several small grained millets which include finger millet (ragi) foxtail millet (kangni), kodo millet (kodo), proso millet (cheena), barnyard millet (sawan) and little millet (kutki). Minor millets are borne on short, slender and grassy plants. They are mainly grown in arid, semi-arid or mountain zones as rainfed crops in marginal and sub-marginal soils. These cereals have the capacity of growing during adverse soil and climatic conditions and several of their cultivars are of short duration (60-80 days) producing about 0.5 t ha-1 which is better than no crop. Some of the minor millets are ideal for contingency crop planning to take advantages of late receipt of rains, failure of the first crop due to unexpected long drought or even receding flood situations. They are amazing in their nutritional content. Compared to rice and wheat mineral content in small/minor millets is higher. While finger millet contains 30 times more calcium than rice and wheat, other minor millets contain at least two times more calcium than rice and wheat. Little millet and foxtail millet have a higher amount of iron. They are also have therapeutic qualities. Minor millets, being non-glutanous, therefore are used for people with gluten allergy. The fat content in minor millets not only provides energy but also aids in balanced proportions and is rich in methionine, cysteine and lysine. These are especially beneficial to vegetarians who depend on plant food for their protein nourishment. The grain contains high proportions of carbohydrates and dietary fibre which help in prevention of constipation, lowering cholesterol and slow release of glucose to the blood stream during digestion. Important vitamins viz., thiamine, riboflavin and niacin are present in higher quantities. However, it is also reported that cardiovascular diseases, duodenal ulcers and hypoglycaemia occur rarely in minor millet eaters. In spite of several health and economic benefits, minor millets are disappearing from the people's diet and farm soils due to the shift in food habits, rapid rate of urbanization, time and energy required to prepare minor millet based foods, poor marketing facilities and processing techniques. Mechanical polishing is well-known for rice, wheat and maize but for minor cereals this step is unknown. For instance, large scale imports of rice and wheat and policies to subsidize production of those crops had negative impact on the production of minor millets. Therefore, urgent attention must be given to the production and consumption of these minor cereal crops to ensure food and nutritional security throughout the country.
Kumar, A., Kumar, S., Kumar, A. and Kumar, S. (2019). Promoting minor millets for food and nutritional security. Acta Hortic. 1241, 571-576
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2019.1241.84
millet (ragi), foxtail millet (kangni), kodo millet (kodo), proso millet (cheena), barnyard millet (sawan), little millet

Acta Horticulturae