Botanical Name: Ochthochloa coracana
*Ochthocloa Edgew., alternate spelling
*Panicum compressum Forssk.
*Eleusine compressa (Forssk.) Asch. & Schweinf. ex C.Chr.
*Cynosurus ternatus Forssk.
*Eleusine stolonifera R.Br.
*Eleusine flagellifera Nees
*Ochthochloa dactyloides Edgew.
Common Names: Hamrah, Wire grass, Marua (Toto).Finger Millet, African finger millet
Habitat: Ochthochloa is a genus of desert plants in the grass family native to the Sahara and Arabian Deserts. The only known species is Ochthochloa compressa, whose native range extends from Algeria to Uttarakhand.
Eleusine coracana is an annuals or perennials. Culms erect, 25-60 cm high; nodes glabrous. Leaves linear, 10-80 x 0.3-1 cm, acute or acuminate, rounded or shallowly cordate at base. Sheaths strongly keeled, compressed. Ligules row of hairs. Spikes digitate, 3-8 in number, 2-8 cm long, compact, densely spiculate. Spikelets ovate, 4-6 mm long, 4-6-flowered. Lower glume ovate-oblong, 2-3 x 1.5-3 mm, chartaceous, 3-nerved, keeled, keel scabrid. Upper glume ovate-lanceolate, 3-4 x 1.5-3 mm, chartaceous, 5-nerved, keeled; keel scabrid. Lemmas ovate-acute, 2-4 x 2-3 mm, chartaceous, 3-nerved. Paleas ovate-oblong, 2-3 x 1.5-3 mm, chartaceous, 2-keeled; keels winged, scabrid. Stamens 3; anthers 1-1.5 mm long. Grain orbicular or globose, dark-brown, exposed.
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An easily grown plant, it succeeds in ordinary garden soil in a sunny position. Tolerates moderately moist conditions. Finger millet is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation of 29 to 429cm, an annual temperature range of 11.1 to 27.4°C and a pH in the range of 5.0 to 8.2. Typically a tropical crop, one of the best suited for dry farming, generally grown rainfed. It thrives under a medium rainfall, on porous soils that do not get waterlogged. With rainfall of 53-75 cm, it is cultivated rainfed; with less, it is irrigated. Finger millet is very adaptable and thrives at higher elevations than most other tropical cereals. Cultivated on soils ranging from rich loams to poor shallow upland soils. In India, grown on black cotton soils, but thrives on red lateritic loams. Ragi stands salinity better than most cereals. Finger millet is much cultivated in tropical countries for its edible seed. Over 20 varieties of ragi are cultivated in India. The numerous races under cultivation are primarily divided into purple and green types; those with straight or open spikes, encurved or closed spikes, or branched spikes; length of earheads (5-10 cm long); colour of seeds (deep brown to shade of orange-red to almost white or black); dwarf in habit (45 cm tall) to up to 1.3 m tall; poor tillering to profuse tillering; early or late maturing; suitable for growing under irrigation to growing in dry areas. Many named cultivars are involved in breeding trials in India. Most improvement is sought in increasing yields, resistance to lodging, even maturity and loose panicle. The plant requires a good summer if it is to do well in Britain, though in warmer climes it is heavy yielding, even on poor soils. Plants are seldom troubled by insect pests. The seed stores well. Plants are mainly self-fertile
Seed – cooked. Used as a millet, the seed can be cooked whole or ground and used as a flour. It is used in cakes, puddings, porridge etc. The flour makes a very fair unleavened bread if it is first soaked overnight in water. It is often used in making fermented foods. Finger millet is the main food grain for many peoples, especially in dry areas of India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The grain is higher in protein, fat and minerals than rice, corn, or sorghum. When consumed as food it provides a sustaining diet, especially for people doing hard work. The grain may also be malted and a flour of the malted grain used as a nourishing food for infants and invalids. Finger millet is considered an especially wholesome food for diabetics. The seed is about 2mm in diameter. A nutritional analysis is available. Seed yield is about 5 Tonnes per hectare. Ragi grain possesses excellent storage properties and is said to improve in quality with storage. Seed can be stored without damage for as long as 50 years. They are highly valued as a reserve food in times of famine. Yield depends on variety and is directly related to duration, height and tillering capacity of type grown. Types with straight spikes give better yields than those with curved spikes.
The seed is astringent, tonic and cooling. It is used in the treatment of fevers, biliousness and hepatitis. The leaf juice has been given to women in childbirth, and the plant is reported to be diaphoretic, diuretic, and vermifuge. The plant is a folk remedy for treating leprosy, liver disease, measles, pleurisy, pneumonia, and small pox.
The grains and rhizomatous parts are used as the raw materials for the preparation of country liquor by the Totos.
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