Finger millet [Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn] is genetically unrelated to pearl millet, despite the coincidental common name. The major producers are Uganda, Ethiopia, India, Nepal and China. Dryland Cereals will focus on the 0.9 million hectares in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Finger millet is grown mainly in marginal environments (characterized by low soil fertility and tendency to drought) as a rainfed crop. Finger millet is well adapted to higher elevations and is grown in the East African highlands up to 2,300 meters above sea level. It is originally native to the Ethiopian highlands and was introduced into India approximately 4,000 years ago. Under optimal irrigated conditions, finger millet has high yield potential, with over 10 tons/ha.
Finger millet is rich in fiber, iron and calcium – it contains 40 times more calcium than maize and rice, and 10 times more than wheat. Finger millet grain stores very well.
Constraints and opportunities
Major constraints to finger millet production include blast disease, the parasitic weed Striga and abiotic stresses such as drought and low soil fertility.
Opportunities to be explored include the application of genetic male-sterility as a breeding tool (to make it easier to produce full-sib, F1 and BCnF1 crosses) to facilitate recurrent selection; developing genetically broad-based, more durable resistance to blast; and methods for producing larger backcross F1 generations to accelerate backcross breeding.