Crop Res. 55 (1 & 2) : 57-63 (2020)
With three figures
Printed in India
Potential horizon of brown-top millet cultivation in drylands : A
Department of Agronomy and Agroforestry
M. S. Swaminathan School of Agriculture
Centurion University of Technology and Management, Paralakhemundi-761 211 (Odisha), India
*(email : firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Received : February 27, 2020/Accepted : March 19, 2020)
Millets are recently recognized as ‘nutri-cereals’ due to their superiority in terms
of dietary value to other cereals. India has the heritage to grow different kinds of millets
since the ancient time. Different small millets have unique quality to combat with the
extreme climatic conditions which are more relevant as adaptation option in the present
scenario of issues related to global warming and climate change. The production
sustainability is must considering the growing population of the world and it is a major
concern in developing countries with more population. The small millets can play important
role in this regard as these are ecologically sound, belong to C4 group of plants, tolerant to
different adverse climatic conditions including drought and can produce a moderate yield
for food and nutritional sustainability. Amongst different small millets, the importance
brown-top millet has recognized recently as it has huge potential to make faring in resource-
poor and fragile ecological conditions and thus can ensure economic and nutritional security
as well as production sustainability of smallholders. But it is astonishing that sufficient
research has not been carried out and information is not available and ample scope is
there for future research to exploit the potential of the crop. An attempt has been made to
gather information on brown-top millet on the basis of experimental results as well as
Key words : Brown-top millet, cultivation, drylands, future strategy, origin and distribution,
Millets are the traditional crops
cultivated by smallholders and tribal farmers
mainly under rainfed conditions. These are
among the foremost ancient cultivated crops
in India. Millets are grouped into two categories,
major and minor or small millets. Sorghum
(Sorghum bicolor L.) and pearl millet
(Pennisetum typhoides L.) belong to major millet
group (Singh and Maiti, 2017; Maiti and Singh,
2019), while finger millet (Chavan et al., 2017;
Chavan et al., 2018; Adhikari et al., 2018) or
ragi [Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn], barnyard
millet (Echinochloa frumentacea L.), foxtail of
Italian millet (Setaria italica L.), kodo millet
(Paspalum scrobiculatum L.), proso millet
(Panicum miliaceum L.) and brown-top millet
(Brachiaria ramosa L. Stapf; Panicum ramosum
L.) are the examples of minor or small millets.
In India, small millets are cultivated in 6.8 lakh
ha and our country is the largest producer of
millets with 80% of the production of Asia (Rao
et al., 2013). Area under small millet cultivation
in India is around 7.0 lakh ha with a
productivity of 633 kg/ha (Anbukkani et al.
2017), of those finger millet shares about 80%
of production and it is followed by kodo millet,
foxtail millet, barnyard millet and proso millet.
During the post green revolution era,
focus of grain production was concentrated
towards fine cereal production and enough
emphasis was given towards that direction.
These initiatives ultimately changed the
mindset of consumers and millets became
neglected. Further, urbanization made Indians
switch to wheat and rice and value-added
products of these two major cereals. The
Consultative Group on International
Agriculture Research (CGIAR) has opined that
millets may additionally play crucial roles in
the developing countries like India where food
DOI : 10.31830/2454-1761.2020.012
and nutrient security are the key issues
(Behera, 2017). Moreover, rice-wheat cropping
system is identified as water-guzzler over time
and agriculturists are in search of suitable
cropping systems to reinforce water
productivity and agricultural sustainability.
The irrigated areas in India are
overexploited and during recent time major
concerns are yield plateauing, salinization,
depletion of ground water and degradation of
natural resources. However, the increasing
productivity is more important in rainfed areas
as these are less productive than irrigated areas
with various limitations like poor soils,
managed by smallholders and farmers are
combatting against ill effects of global warming
and climate change, poverty and malnutrition.
The worldwide population is going to be
increased to 9 billion by 2050 and before that
time India will be the most populous nation.
In the context of fluctuating yield of major
cereals, small millets registered a gradual
progression in productivity over the last five
decades as in 1955-56 yield was 388 kg/ha
and in 2013-14 it was 633 kg/ha (Anbukkani
et al., 2017). The agriculture in India suffers
from the uncertaintties of monsoon, but millets
are referred as ‘famine reserves’ as ecologically
hardy crop with greater storability (Passi and
Jain, 2014). Furthermore, millets are best
suited for mixed and intercropping, thus offer
sustainable resources use, food and nutrition
livelihood security to farmers.
During the period of realizing the
impacts of climate change, the thus far-
neglected millets have acquired recognition as
they require less water and may resist extreme
temperatures (Oelke et al., 1990). Global bodies
are pushing millets farming with the thought
that these reduce carbon footprint of
agriculture even as producing sure food and
ensuring nutritional security. In India and
other parts of the planet, an increasing number
of farmers is switching to millets cultivation
because of their re-evaluated importance in
terms of realization of dietary value and
Amongst different small millets, brown-
top millet has drawn the attention of health
conscious customers very lately and it’s of high
priced coarse cereals in the retail market. In
India during the Neolithic age, brown-top millet
was grown as a subsistence crop (Boivin et al.,
2014) and used as a grain and forage (Madella
et al., 2013). Considering the developing
interest in brown-top millet amongst both the
consumers and farmers, there could also be
scope for expansion of area under cultivation
targeting profitability as well as agricultural
sustainability. But much information and
scientific package of practices of brown-top
millet are not available. An initiative has been
made to gather information on nutritional value
and cultivation technology of brown-top millet
on the basis of available literature and
Origin, Domestication and Distribution
The first domestication of brown top
millet probably occurred within the Deccan of
south India and it had been reached to other
parts of India during prehistory period
(Kingwell-Banham and Fuller, 2014) as
evidenced in the archaeo-botanical researches
from the Neolithic south Indian sites (Fig. 1).
Further researchers suggested this millet was
present in the crop fields alongside other crops
of south India from beginning of the third
millennium BCE (Fuller, 2006). Agro-pastoral
system was very common during Neolithic
period and millet-legume mixed cropping was
a standard feature of farming system. During
the second millennium BCE from the Deccan
it reached to Tamil Nadu (Cooke et al., 2005)
and Gujarat. The grains of brown-top were
observed in scattered sites in Odisha and the
Gangetic plains (Harvey, 2006), however, there
was no evidence of commercial farming.
Moreover, up to the seventh century CE
presence of brown-top millet was noted at the
location of Paithan in Maharashtra. But over
time this crop has been substituted by more
productive millets, including sorghum, pearl
millet, finger millet as well as foxtail millet.
Sheahan (2014) mentioned that brown-top
millet was originated in south-east Asia and
presently it is grown in Africa, western Asia,
Arabia, Australia and China (Clayton et al.,
2006). In 1915, it was introduced to the United
States from India (Oelke et al., 1990). In the
US, it is cultivated for hay, pasture and game
bird field. In India, its presence is noted as a
common weed of little millet (Sakamoto, 1987).
Brown-top millet is also known as signal
grass and it is one amongst the rarest millets.
Being native to India, it grows well in the
dryland tracts of Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh
border areas, covering regions of Tumkur,
Chitradurga and Chikkaballapura districts in
Karnataka and Ananthpur district in Andhra
Pradesh. It is named differently in Indian
languages as ‘korale’ in Kannada
and ‘Andakorra’ in Telugu and the crop is
additionally grown and consumed in limited
quantities in Bundelkhand region (Niyogi,
2018). Unlike other millets, brown-top millet
has a unique quality as it can be grown within
the partial shade which ensures wider choice
of adoption even in fruit orchards.
Description of the Crop
Brown-top millet is an annual/
perennial warm-season grass of Poaceae family
with erect or prostrate stem (culm) along the
ground. When growing erect, it may reach up
to 90 cm height at maturity. The nodes of
brown-top millet are minutely hairy; with lance-
shaped and hairless leaf blades of 2-25 cm
length and 4-14 mm width (Clayton et al.,
2006). The flowers are indeterminate in nature
and stalked, however, the inflorescence is open
and spreading, with a simple axis. The number
of inflorescences ranges 3-15 of 1-8 cm long
from a central axis. The flowers are white and
ellipsoid seeds are tan in colour. The fibreous
roots of brown-top millet can penetrate up to
60 cm deep. The duration of the crop is
approximately 60 to 75 days.
Like other millets, it is ecologically
hardy and prominently considered for
cultivation in dry lands. This millet features a
Fig. 1. Distribution of brown-top millet from archaeological sites and modern cultivation (adopted from
Kingwell-Banham and Fuller, 2014).
Cultivation technology of brown-top millet 59
wider adaptability and is grown in a variety of
soils and climates and having the quality to
tolerate a moderate level of environmental
stress as C4 plants. Being a facultative upland
plant, brown-top millet prefers sandy loam soils
with a pH 5-6.5 under full sun. Unlike other
millets, brown-top millet has a unique quality
as it can be grown in the partial shade which
ensures wider choice of adoption even in fruit
orchards or in agro-forestry system. Brown-top
millet grows in rocky, shallow soils from sea
level up to 2450 m (FAO, 2007) and it is
adaptable to almost all upland soil (Mitchell
and Tomlinson, 1989), but it does not survive
in temperature less than 11°C (Sheahan, 2014).
Brown-top millet is a crop of versatile
use as it is grown as food for human
consumption, forage and food for game birds
(Sheahan, 2014). Grains of brown-top millet
from non-shattering varieties are used as a
boiled whole grain (like rice), porridge or
unleavened bread (Nesbitt, 2005). Brown top
millet is generally ground into ?our and ?at
breads (roti, dosa) are made or polished and
boiled to make gruel (rice, anna, kheer).
Besides, it has significance in some rituals,
probably for that reason only it is persisting in
farming in some locations (Kimata et al., 2000).
For human consumption, there is
enough scope for value addition in the form of
idli mix or making of biscuit by proportionately
mixing brown-top millet with other flours of
major cereals, namely, rice and wheat (Roopa,
2015). Because of its short duration, it can be
cultivated as catch crop, cover crop or nurse
crop (Miller and Lord, 2007) and as cover crop
it can check soil erosion. But under drought
and cold stressed conditions the nitrate level
reaches to toxic or lethal level and the forage
obtained should not be fed to animals. In plant
protection aspect, the crop has greater
importance as it suppresses root-knot
nematode populations in tomato and pepper
(McSorley et al., 1999). The crop, however, does
not show any allelopathic effects. The crop has
the capacity to accumulate lead and zinc in
plant tissues and so considered for remediation
of contaminated soils (Lakshmi et al., 2013).
Brown-top millet can be considered for
supporting the wild life (Bhat et al., 2018). As
a nutritious grain, seeds are used in food plots
for game birds and as green forage it is grown
for deer, dove, turkey and other wildlife (Fig.
As stated earlier, millets are rich in
nutrients and have higher dietary value and
brown-top millet contains 8.98, 1.89, 3.9 and
71.32% of protein, fat, minerals and
carbohydrate, respectively. Each 100 g of
brown-top millet provides 338 Kcal of energy.
Further, it is a rich source of macro and micro
nutrients. Roopa (2015) mentioned that 100 g
of brown-top millet was comprised of 28 mg of
calcium, 276 mg of phosphorus, 60 mg of
potassium, 94.5 mg of sodium, 7.72 mg of iron,
2.75 mg of zinc and 1.23 mg of copper. Such
superior nutritional value of brown-top millet
has kept it as an automatic choice of health
conscious consumers and created higher
market price. The residual stock is also
considered as animal feed as it contains 56.7
g/kg of crude protein and 594.2 g/kg of total
digestible nutrient (Kering and Broderick, 2018)
along with higher level of minerals like
phosphorus (1.5 g/kg), magnesium (5.9 g/kg)
and calcium (9.0 g/kg).
There are two types of brown-top millet
which are cultivated in south India, namely,
branched type and round panicle, in Kannada
language these are known as chaduru-korale
and dundu-korale, respectively. The round
panicle type gives higher yield, but branched
Fig. 2. Uses of brown-top millet.
type is susceptible to pests and diseases.
Brown-top millet is a pre-monsoon or monsoon
crop which is sown from middle of April to
middle of August, but late sowing yields poor.
Seeds are drilled 2-3 cm below the soil and
approximately 4-5 kg seeds are required to
cover an acre. Amongst different nutrients,
application of nitrogen and phosphorus
fertilizers is known to increase grain and forage
yield (Sheahan, 2014). Thakur et al. (2019)
conducted an experiment in Chhattisgarh,
India and concluded that 125% recommended
dose of fertilizer (RDF) registered superior yield
parameters and yield (817 kg/ha) to 75% and
100% RDF, while the RDF considered for
experimental soil (stony and calcareous) was
40 : 20 : 20 kg N-P2O5-K2O/ha. Weed
management is essential and close row planting
is preferable to reduce weed population. Thakur
et al. (2019) reported that planting geometry of
22.5 × 10 cm recorded taller plants with higher
forage yield, but maximum grain yield was
noted with a row × plant spacing of 60 × 10
cm. As forage crop, single cut is recommended
as regrowth after cutting is not satisfactory. At
farmer’s level average productivity of 7-8 q of
grains and four tractor loads of forages are
harvested. Moreover, it is compatible to grow
as intercrop or strip crop with other crops like
sunflowers, corn, sorghum, soybean and
pulses. There is no evidence of major pests and
disease attack in brown-top millet, but may
suffer from armyworms (Mississippi State
University, 2010), grasshoppers and greengram
yellow mosaic virus (Sheahan, 2014).
The brown-top millet has hard outer
cover of the seed and processing is little difficult
and for that reason only making rice from whole
grain is not preferred, rather seeds are
processed in the flour mills. There is enough
scope for designing suitable machines for
processing of seeds for making of rice from
Future Strategy and Research Scope
The drylands have multifaceted
problems like low productivity and income from
existing cropping system, threats due to
monsoon vagaries and water deficit and
uncertainty in farm output, mostly managed
by small holders and less investment and poor
livelihood and nutritional security of the
farmers. Under such conditions, inclusion of
brown-top millet in the cropping system may
be the solution of so many problems in
drylands. But sufficient research has not been
carried out on the crop and it deserves focused
research intervention on development of
improved cultivars, good agricultural practice
(GAP), integrated plant protection, processing
and value addition and market linkage. The
Indian Council of Agricultural Research-Indian
Institute of Millet Research (ICAR-IIMR, 2016-
17) collected 29 germplasms so far. Release of
suitable cultivars will certainly enhance the
productivity. The research activities have
already been initiated in our country on brown-
top millet under All India Coordinated Crop
Improvement Project (AICRP). There is ample
scope for standardization of proportion of value-
added products like biscuits, cookies and idli
mix (Roopa, 2015). Government of Odisha
launched a special scheme named Odisha Millet
Mission in 2017 to promote millet production,
value addition and consumption. About 50,000
farmers of 14 districts have been mobilized to
adopt millet cultivation and recently the
Government of Odisha has decided to include
these nutri-cereals in different schemes like
Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS),
Mid-day Meal (MDM) and public distribution
system (Orissa Post, 2019). The possible output
of research intervention on brown-top millet
will be inclusion of climate resilient sustainable
cropping system, assurance in food and
nutritional security, making drylands more
productive and thus income and livelihood
security of smallholders (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3. Problems of dryland, requirement of research
on brown-top millet and possible output.
Cultivation technology of brown-top millet 61
The brown-top millet has huge
untapped potential for drylands in terms of
assuring food, nutrition and livelihood security
to smallholders. As a drought tolerant plant it
provides enough scope as an adaptation option
to combat ill effects of global warming and
climate change. Proper research emphasis may
be given along with promotional activity to
make the nutri-cereal popular amongst the
farmers and consumers and thus to achieve
agricultural sustainability in drylands.
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Cultivation technology of brown-top millet 63