Millets as an Integral Part of Nutritional Diet in India

Millets as an Integral Part of Nutritional Diet in India

T. K. Hrideek (Kerala Forest Research Institute, India) and K. U. K. Nampoothiri (Central Plantation Crops Research Institute, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0607-2.ch004


Millets are small grained cereals belonging to the family Gramineae and they include major millets and minor millets. Millets are quite important from the point of food and nutritional security at regional and house hold level. In India's dry lands, they play a significant role in meeting food and fodder requirements of farming communities. Millets are found to have high nutritive value comparable and even superior to major cereals with respect to protein, energy, vitamins and minerals. They are also rich sources of phytochemicals and micronutrients. Since millet is gluten-free, it is an excellent option for the people who are suffering from atherosclerosis, diabetics and heart disease. In the face of increasing population and stagnant wheat and rice production, millets can be a promising alternative in solving the problem of food insecurity and malnutrition, because of their sustainability in adverse agro-climatic conditions. These crops have substantive potential in broadening the genetic diversity of the food basket and ensuring improved food and nutrition security.
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Millets are small grained cereals belonging to Gramineae family which include major millets like sorghum and pearl millet (which are tall growing and fairly drought tolerant) and minor millets with short slender culm and small grains possessing remarkable drought tolerance (ICRISAT and FAO, 1996). The term “millet’ is often used loosely to refer to several types of small seeded annual grasses. Millets share a set of characteristics which make them unique amongst cereals. They belong to five genera, namely Panicum, Setaria, Echinochola, Pennisetum, Paspalum, and Eleusine. The genus Pennisetum includes about 140 species, some of which are domesticated and some grow in the wild. Most of the genera are widely distributed throughout the tropics and subtropics of the world (De Wet et al, 1984). Millets can be a valuable source of forage because of their rapid growth, high nutritive value and ability to survive stressful conditions such as drought. According to Hulse et al. (1980), the most important cultivated millet species are pearl millet (Pennisetum typhoides), also known as bulrush millet; proso millet (Panicum miliaceum), also known as common millet; foxtail millet (Setaria italica); Japanese barnyard millet (Echinochloa crus- gallivar or E. colona); finger millet (Eleusine coracana), also known as birds foot millet or African millet and kodo millet (Paspalum scorbiculatum). Other millets include little millet (Panicum sumatrense), tef millet (Eargrostis tef) and fonio millet Digitaria exilis and D. iburua) (Dogget, 1989). The vernacular names of millets in India are given in Table 1.

Table 1.
Vernacular names of millets
EnglishAlternate NamesBotanicalHindiKannadaTamilTeluguMalayalamMarathi
SorghumGreat Millet/Milo/ChariSorghum vulgareJowarJolaCholamJonnaluCholamJwari
Pearl MilletSpiked Millet/BullrushPennisetum typhoideumBajraSajjeKambuGantilu/ SazzaluKambuBajri
Finger MilletRajikaEleusine coracanaMandua/ maduaRagiKelvargu/ kezhvaraguRaguluMuthariNachni
Barnyard MilletJapanese Millet/ SawankEchinochola frumantaceaJhangora/ ShamaSamaiKuthiravaaliOdalu/ Bonta/ Chamula_Shamul
Foxtail MilletMoha Millet/ Italian MilletSetarai italicaKangniNavane/ PriyanguTheneTenaiKorra/ KorraluThinaRala
Kodo MilletPakodi/ ManakodraPaspalum scrobiculatumKodraHarkaVaraguArikeluVaraguHarik
Proso MilletFrench Millet/ Common MilletPanicum miliaceumBarriBaraguPanivaraguVarigulu/ VaragaluPanivaraguVari
Little MilletGoudli/GondolaPanicum miliareKutkiSameSamaiSamaChamaSava

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