Millet farming can be traced back to Africa and Asian countries where it is said to originate from. African countries that produce millet in larger quantities are Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Niger etc; while Asian countries are India, China etc. Millet is from the grass family, a small grain crop that is grouped under cereals crops.
It is. tropical/semi tropical crop that grows under dry high temperature. 20*C-30*C. Annual rainfall of 40 cm-60 cm is ideal for optimum growth. Millet will not reach maximum height in cool climate. It can grow up to 41-62 cm height, millet grow best in regions that surrounds Sahara. That is why millet is cultivated majorly in the North in Nigeria. Many are of the opinion that it cannot grow well in the south. But it can be grown in the south with irrigation during dry season since it requires warm temperature to grow well. Besides irrigation millet farming produces bumper harvest.
Millet is used for feeding livestock and as a source of food for humans. It is very nutritious and healthy too. A recommended food for babies and the elderly. I weaned all my babies with millet after exclusive breast-feeding and it was damn good on them. Millet can be used for pap just like maize. This is to tell you that you have a ready market because babies are born everyday. Beverage companies also use them in making drinks. Millet is costlier than maize, sorghum and guinea corn. In this post you will read how to start a profitable millet farming. From land preparation to marketing.
WHY YOU SHOULD START MILLET FARMING
- It is highly demanded
- Millet is sold cheap as such both the poor and rich can purchase. It is a good source of income
- Livestock farming is on the increase and many farmers will need it for their animals.
USES OF MILLET
- Use for food such as porridge
- It is eaten with milk and sugar, the Hausas call it kunun chafa. In Mali about 40% of cereal eaten is millet while in Senegal it is 65%. Nigeria, Namibia, Niger also eat millet in high quantity.
- Millet is used for alcoholic production
- As a feed for farm animals but the contain less dry matter.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF MILLET
- millet is very high in protein (about 15% higher than other grains
- Rich in Vitamins B such as niacin, folacin, thiamine, and riboflavin they are all good for the liver. Niacin in millet can help lower cholesterol.
- High antioxidants; contains important minerals like zinc
- Millet consumption decreases triglycerides and creative proteins
- Helps in constipation by rehydrating the colon
- Good for vegetarians.Millet is a smart carb with lots of fibre
- Magnesium in millet can help reduce the effects of migraines and heart attacks.
- Millet is alkaline and digests easily. It is gluten-free and non-allergic. Good for sensitive persons with stomach ulcer.
- High in iron,phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and potassium
- Source of essential amino acids, methionine,
- Reduces cancer risk
Clear the soil of grasses and trees you van use plough to loosen the soil if it is a large commercial millet farming. But for subsistence millet farming you can use spade to loosen the soil. Make ridges if that’s what you but millet can be planted on a level ground. Although millet can grow in a non fertile soil but will rather perform excellently well when the soil is highly fertile with good moisture. Use a well-drained sandy loam soil rich in organic matter.Mix the soil up with manure it could be animal dung or compost to enrich the land for planting.
Millet can be propagated either by drilling method or dibbling method. For dibbling 3.5 kg is needed for a hectare while 5 kg is needed for drilling. Planting should be done in late July. Spacing is 40-45 cm within rows and 10-15cm within rows. All the same spacing depends on the variety you are choosing to cultivate.
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Chose the variety that is suitable to your locality, soil and climate. Because these factors will affect the density of millet your farm can support.. The depth should be between 1-3cm into the soil. Millet germination varies but will sprout within 2 weeks.
There are many millet varieties including, improved variety;
Hybrid variety can:
- produces higher than the others
- Has high disease resistant and
- Good yield
Unlike other varieties hybrid can withstand
- Infertile soil
- Poor soil
For those using it for fodder, animals gain weight faster with millet when compared with other grains like sorghum. It has better hay on silage.
Ornamental millet example Foxtail millet Highlander, purple majesty. They are ideal for small gardens millet farming because of their attractive appearance.
Finger millet: it is cheap and has long storage time. Finger millet is propagated mostly by subsistence millet farmers.
Pearl millet, it is the most commonly planted millet variety in Africa and Asia. It can do well in a less fertile soil and in semi arid impoverished soils.
Weeding should be done at the early stage. Millet is from the grass family as we know so it will not be right to allow other grasses in millet farm because they will be competing for the Same thing.
Stem borers and grasshoppers are the major pest. Another bigger pest are birds. The most commonest disease in millet farming is downy mildew. Treat them with fungicides. It is not advisable to use pesticides on the farm for fodder.
Millet cannot grow well where moisture is high. It will rot in a water log area. However, you have to irrigate your millet farm when the soil is dry. For large-scale commercial millet farming use drip irrigation.
The use of organic manure all through millet farming is ideal but inorganic manure can also be use if that’s your choice. Use NPK 30:15:15. Nitrogen should be higher than other nutrients in millet farming. Apply the fertilizer in split doses.
When the grains becomes hard with moisture you can harvest them. It should be done on time in other not to allow birds destroy the crops. Birds can attack them immediately after attaining maturity. You can cut the whole plant stand or only the ear head. Dry them under the sun for 5-7 days before hauling them.
Millet matures between 60-70 days and can reach 90 days depending on the variety.
The yield depends on variety, hybrid can be more than 4 times double that of traditional seeds.
Sale your harvested produce to market traders who are waiting for it. Or you to dealers in grain storage business. Also sale to drinks producers and kunu sellers. Advertise your produce both offline and online.
PLANTING MILLET FOR GRAZING
If you are planting millet for grazing, the millet can be grazed when they are about 5-7 weeks after sowing. By this time they should be about 20-30cm high. The reason millet plant should be grazed when young are:
- It is more valuable when young
- More palatable
- And more valuable
But as millet grows it reduces in palatability and in value. Japanese millet (Echinochloa esculenta) are considered best for grazing because:
- It is suitable for sheep and cattle
- Japanese millet is fast in establishment
- It gives good regrowth and will mature later unlike others
- Very cheap, the sowing rate is 10 kg per hectare
- It can be grazed early.
HOW TO PREPARE MILLET POWDER
- Grind or pound millet seeds by breaking them into pieces
- Sieve it in other to remove the chaff
- soak the ground millet in cold water over night. If you use hot water it will turn to black.
- wash the soaked millet with fresh clean water
- spread them on flat surface on tray, dry it under the sun for a day
- Add black gloves,ginger,small yaji and other spices and ground into powder. It is optional anyway but will give it a nice taste at the end of the day
- sieve again to get rid of any unwanted chaff
- dry again in other to get the flour completely dry
- It will become dry greyish powder with favorable scent that will preserve it for months
- Anytime you want to make porridge, fetch some and make it into a paste just like ogi
- cook with hot water and add sugar
Millet farming is not a get rich kind of agribusiness but will sure make you a millionaire in a short while as you keep to it. This grain is an exportable commodity. It is also one of the grains that can be stored for later sales.
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