Indian farmer with a sampling of his bajra harvest. (The Rockefeller Foundation)

Indians commonly grind pearl millet and make the flour into cakes or unleavened bread (chapati). Some goes into porridges, which may be thin or thick. Much is cooked like rice. The grain is sometimes parched and eaten, the product (known as akohi, bhunja, lahi, or phula) being similar to popcorn. In some regions, the green ears are also roasted and eaten like a vegetable.

Although small quantities of the grains are used for feeding cattle and poultry, the plant is more often fed to animals as a green fodder. It is well suited for this purpose because it is quick-growing, tillers very freely, lends itself to multiple cutting, and usually has thin and succulent stems.

All in all, pearl millet is not a neglected crop in India. Authorities realize that it stabilizes the nation's food basket. Improved strains, suited to various regions, have been created and released for cultivation. Indeed, its potential is being increasingly exploited, especially as the swelling population requires increased cultivation of marginal land.



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