Finger millets respond well to fertilizer application specifically to nitrogen and phosphorus with a blanket rate of 60 kg N, 30 kg P & 30 kg K. When correct amount and proper placement of fertilizer is used, the yield of finger millet increases three times. In finger millet, microdosing technique of fertilizer application is recommended. Microdosing is application of 1/3 of recommended fertilizer to a sowing hole or beside a plant at an appropriate time for more efficient use of the fertilizer and available moisture. The fertilizer is placed in the root zone of finger millet to facilitate efficient uptake.
Three methods of microdosing technique of fertilizer application are currently in use i.e.;
- Planting holes are dug, then fertilizer and seeds are placed into them and covered
- Fertilizer is placed 5 cm away from growing plantlets, to avoid the burning effect of fertilizer on the plantlets.
- Appropriate amount of seed and fertilizer is mixed prior to seeding in moist soil conditions. Seeding under dry soil conditions leads to damage to the seeds or seedlings.
The microdosing technique of fertilizer application to be used depends on the sowing method of finger millet as indicated below:
Seeding by drilling: Suitable amount of fertilizer and seed is mixed immediately before drilling in moist soil conditions.
Spot sowing: Fertilizer is placed in the seeding hole.
Broadcasting: Seed is mixed with fertilizer and then immediately broadcast and worked into moist soil by pulling twigs over it.
Transplanting finger millet: Planting holes are dug then appropriate fertilizer is immediately placed in holes followed by transplanting of the seedlings.
Where rainfall is high especially around the Lake Victoria basin, delay of fertilizer application for 30 – 40 days after sowing is necessary. Under this system, the correct amount of fertilizer is spot placed 5 cm away from the target plantlet. Fertilizer can be applied in two to three equal doses starting at sowing, 30 days after sowing and at booting depending on moisture availability.
Use of chemical fertilizer requires technical expertise along with soil testing which is costly for most finger millet growers. However, use of organic manure (Fig. 3) is highly recommended in finger millet production and 5 – 10 ton of farm yard manure or well decomposed cow dung can be applied in the field one month before sowing.
Source: Finger Millet Production Manual (NARO)