By: Dr. Shweta, Deptt. of Genetics & Plant Breeding C.S. Azad Univ. of Agril. & Tech. Kanpur & Executive Editor-ICN
KANPUR : Millet is a collective term referring to a number of small-seeded annual grasses that are cultivated as grain crops, primarily on marginal lands in dry areas in temperate, subtropical and tropical regions. About 20 different species of millet have been cultivated throughout the world at different points in time. Commonly cultivated millet species include, proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.), pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum L.R. Br.), finger millet (Eleusine coracana), kodo millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum), foxtail millet (Setaria italica L. Beauv.), little millet (Panicum sumatrense), and barnyard millet (Echinochloa frumentacea).
Pearl millet accounts for almost half of global millet production. It is the most important species of millet both in terms of cropped area and contributions to food security in regions of Africa and Asia that can produce little else. Finger millet is widely produced in the cooler, higher-altitude regions of Africa and Asia both as a food crop and as a preferred input for traditional beer. Proso millet is important for bird seed in the developed countries and for food in parts of Asia. Foxtail millet is important in parts of Asia (mainly China) and Europe. The other species (barnyard, kodo and little millets) are locally important food grains restricted to smaller regions or individual countries. The various species differ in their physical characteristics, quality attributes, soil and climatic requirements and growth duration. Although millet represents less than 2 percent of world cereal utilization, it is an important staple in a large number of countries in the semi-arid tropics, where low precipitation and poor soils limit the cultivation of other major food crops.
Millet utilization is mostly confined to the developing countries. According to FAO statistics (2020), the world production of millets in 2018 was 31.01 million metric tonnes from an area of 33.56 million hectare. Africa was the largest producer of millet in 2018 (13.91 million metric tonnes), followed by Asia (13.88 million metric tonnes) and India (10.81 million metric tonnes). Among the states, during 2017-18, the maximum area under millets was in Rajasthan, followed by Maharashtra and Karnataka. Millet ranks sixth among the world’s most important cereal grains, sustaining more than one-third of the world’s population. African and Asian countries are the biggest millet producers. Millets are a major source of energy and protein for millions of people in China, Japan, Africa, and India, and especially for people living in hot and dry areas of the world.
Millets are important but underutilized crops in tropical and semiarid regions of the world due to their greater resistance to pests and diseases, good adaption to a wide range of environment and their good yield of production, can withstand significant levels of salinity, short growing season, resistant to water logging, drought tolerant, requires little inputs during growth and with increasing world population and decreasing water supplies represents important crops for future human use. The drought tolerance of finger millet may be attributed to an efficient antioxidant potential and increased signal perception. Being as hardy crop it is relatively easy to grow finger millet under stressful regimes, without hampering the net productivity. There is vast potential to process millet grains into value-added foods and beverages in developing countries. Furthermore, millets, as they do not contain gluten and therefore it is advisable for stomach (abdominal) patients. In current review attempt has been made to collect the available information from existing literature either online or offline related to the nutraceutical importance and health benefiting properties of finger millet and trying to present the collected data in a easily-documented pattern.