Authors: SUJATA BHAT
Browntop millet (Brachiaria ramose (l.) Stapf; Panicum ramosum L.) is an introduced annual grass that originated in Southeast Asia. It is grown in Africa, Arabia, China and Australia (Clayton, 2006). It was introduced to the United States from India in 1915 (Oelke et al., 1990). In the US, it is mainly grown in the Southeast for hay, pasture and game bird feed. The browntop millet, called korale in Kannada, is specially grown in Tumakuru, Chitradurga and Chikkaballapura districts of Karnataka state. The crop is popular in this region in terms of cultivation and consumption. This millet seed is grown in a variety of soils and climates. Like other millets, it is a hardy crop and well suited for dry land.
Browntop millet is an annual warm-season species that grows 1 to 3 ft tall. The smooth stems have pubescent nodes and may stand erect or ascend from a decumbent base. The leaves are 2.2 to 18 cm long and 6-18 mm wide; both surfaces are smooth. The inflorescence is indeterminate, open, spreading with simple axis and stalked flowers. It has 3-15 inflorescences and white flowers. Seeds are ellipsoid and tan in colour; they mature in approximately 60 days (Sheahan, C.M. 2014).
- Forage/grain: Compared to other warm season forage grasses, browntop millet is relatively low yielding. Its strength is that it is a rapidly maturing grass, often used as a catch crop, cover crop or nurse crop (Miller and Lord 2007). Browntop millet can accumulate toxic/lethal levels of nitrate and should not be fed to livestock if the plant has been stressed by droughty or cold conditions. There is evidence of the cultivation of browntop millet as a subsistence crop in Neolithic India and it continues to be used as a grain and forage crop in India today (Madella et al., 2013). Grain from taller non shattering varieties is used as a boiled whole grain, porridge or unleavened bread (Nesbitt, 2005).
- Cover crop: Browntop millet is used to suppress root-knot nematode populations in tomato and pepper crops in the Southeast (McSorley et al., 1999). It is grown as a fast-growing catch crop between commodity crops and is not known to be allelopathic.
- Critical area planting: Browntop millet is used as a fast growing cover for erosion control. It is used as a nurse crop in the Southeast until a perennial grass cover is established. It also has the ability to accumulate significant amounts of lead and zinc in shoot and root tissues making it an important plant for remediation of contaminated soils (Lakshmi at al., 2013).
- Wildlife: Browntop millet produces large quantities of seeds. These millet seeds are use in food plots for game birds that are highly attracted to the nutritious seed. Browntop millet is one of the few types of millet that can be planted and flooded for ducks or planted in dry areas for deer, quail, dove, turkey and other wildlife. Cultivation
Seed rate and planting: The seeding rate for browntop millet will depend upon both the target species (birds & wildlife) and the seedling method. Birds food Plots are generally seeded at the rate of approximately 4-5kg per acre when planted in rows and 11-12 kg per acre when broadcast. Seed should be covered to a depth of ½ inches in a firm seed bed. Browntop millet can be used in combination with a variety of agricultural crops or other species planted for wild life. The species most commonly planted with browntop are sunflowers, corn, sorghum, soybean, and peas. Combination plantings are ideally suited to larger fields, in which the millet is planted in alternating strips with other crops.
In Karnataka state, farmers use the traditional drillers for sowing the seeds one inch below the top soil. This method is recommended for a better yield. Five kg seeds are required per acre. Seeds get germinate by the fifth day of sowing. Farmers get seven to eight quintal grains per acre and four tractor loads of good quality fodder. They consumes grains by making Roti or as Rice. The crop matures within 60-70 days. The shelf life of seed is about five to six years while the shelf life of browntop rice is only about 25 to 30 days.
Fertilizer: Fertilization with phosphorous and nitrogen can help increase forage productivity; rate of application should be determined by the results of soil tests and /or country recommendations.
Weed management: To control weeds, it is best to plant in a well-prepared, weed-free bed with narrow row spacing. Chemical weed control options are limited. It does not regrow well after cutting so is a one –cut crop.
Seed processing: The cultivation of browntop is simple but processing is difficult due to the hard outer cover of the seed. As a result, farmers get only 40-50 kg of rice from one quintal of browntop/korale seeds. Earlier grinding stones were used to separate the grain from the seed. Today, grinding stones have almost disappeared and korale seeds are processed in the flour mills that process finger millet. The size of korale rice is also very small and separation of stones is difficult. Hence, processing has become a bottleneck for farmers, and efforts are on to design improved processing machines.
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About Author / Additional Info:
I have studied M.Sc. (Agriculture) in Dept. of Genetics and Plant Breeding. At present working as Senior Technical Assistant (Research) at Project Coordinating Unit on Small millets, University of Agricultural Sciences, Gandhi Krishi Vigyana Kendra (GKVK), Bangalore, Karnataka State