Millet, botanically known as Eleusine coracana, are a group of small-seeded species of cereal crops or grains, widely grown around the world for food and fodder.
They do not form a taxonomic group, but rather a functional or agronomic one. Their essential similarities are that they are small-seeded grasses grown in difficult production environments, such as those at risk of drought. They have been in cultivation in East Asia for the last 10,000 years.
Millet takes two to three months to harvest.
Types of millet
There are different types of millet grown in Uganda, but most common are finger millet and pearl millet.
Finger millet is a major staple food and cash crop in northern, eastern, western and southwestern Uganda.
Pearl millet is known for its tolerance of drought and heat, but pearl millets are unusually productive under poor conditions, even by millet standards. The grain grows on long spike-shaped seed heads, which are easily harvested by hand or machine.
Pearl millet is a major staple in Africa, parts of the Arab world, and in India and Pakistan. India is the world’s largest single grower, but Africa depends on millet the most.
To save seeds, cut the mature seed cluster from the stem, the mature seeds will be swollen and release easily from the cluster by simple rubbing. They are small roundish with pointed ends and light white colour.
Allow the seeds to dry for a few days to facilitate easy removal from the stem. Dry them for a few more days before packing.
Prepare the plot for planting. Apply organic compost or a nitrogen-rich fertiliser, like NPK, depending on the soil fertility.
- Plant the seed, spacing each individual seed approximately 2 inches apart.
- Make your rows at least one foot apart. Cover with at least one inch of soil.
- Add additional compost to the plot as the millet grows. Like corn, millet draws a lot of nitrogen from the soil.
- Mulch the plot with straw or other covering if desired. This can help the soil retain water and cut down on pests.
Harvest the millet when the grasses and seed heads have turned golden brown. It can be harvested either by hand or by the use of a mechanical thresher.
After harvesting, it needs about two weeks to dry up well for good quality production.