Grows and promotes brown top millet for health and wealth
“Brown top millet is one the best gifts from Mother Nature to living beings. It is boon for the farmers. To grow 1kg paddy 8000 litres water is needed conversely for 1kg millets only 200 litres water is required! Apart from this unique feature other benefits are resistant to diseases and pests, can be grown under shade hence intercropped with areca nut and coconut, provides ample of grass for cattle fodder and is harvested in 80-85 days. Presently high market demand surely makes it easy for farmers to sell it at good price. Besides, 12.5% fiber content and immense medicinal properties makes it a must have staple in everyday diet of every consumer,” emphasizes Mr. H.K.Raghu, farmer from Tumkur district, Karnataka.
In his 8.5 acre farm Mr. Raghu grows tur dal, cow peas, green gram, hyacinth along with millets. “Crops for rotation are selected depending on the time and season,” says Mr. Raghu and adds, “My father was cultivating brown top and kodo millet but with shift in chemicals he lost these millets hence I didn’t knew anything about millets.”
To learn about farming of different crops and practices Mr. Raghu attended many exhibitions and fairs. One such event was ‘millet mela’, where he got introduced to foxtail, barnyard, proso, little finger, kodo, pearl, finger, sorghum and brown top (korle) millet. “On further research I came to know that in our Sira taluk and Madhugiri taluk brown top millet was available. Our ancestors were growing and consuming it because of many health benefits. I cultivated brown top millet and 30 quintal was the first harvest. I could produce it well but found it hard to find the buyers. Nonetheless I took the initiative to increase awareness and create the demand of brown top millet hence in another ‘Millet Mela’ I offered roti and dosa made of brown top millet to all walk-in people. Later in every mela I promoted brown top millet. In this process I did lose Rs. 30 thousand but finally a ray of hope came with 4 quintal order from Mysuru. In the meantime Mysuru based Dr. Kader encouraged people to consume brown top millet as it has 12.5% fibre content. He then facilitated to set up a stable market for me for selling this millet variant,” he elucidates.
As the market was assured Mr. Raghu began concentrating most on brown top millet. Apart from his farm cultivation, he encouraged other farmers to grow this millet and purchased their produce to be re-sold to the end consumers. “I slowly climbed the stairs of success one by one with new opportunities. I was asked to train other farmers on brown top millet cultivation, began value-adding millet into flour etc. Most moving moment was when I got the nick name ‘Korle Raghu’. In 2017, all farmers in my network earned good profit from brown top millet sale,” he shares. It is sold at Rs.3, 500/quintal in wholesale. In 2017 from 17 acres he got 75 quintals production.
“I use only tippe manure 20kgs and nusi manure in my farm,” he informs. To prepare it 2 kg cow dung, 2 litre cow urine and 1kg lime are mixed well and left for drying in shade. “As millet seeds are small in size it is mixed in this manure. 1 kg seed is mixed with 4kgs of nusi manure. This manure provides nitrogen, soil becomes soft because of lime and disease is controlled. Usually in 1 acre it requires 20 tractor load of manure but using nusi manure 20 kg of cattle manure is sufficient as seeds are treated. Treating seeds will avoid adding manure in entire farmland. Only the rows where the seeds are sown get manure. It also avoids weeds as we are not putting manure everywhere. It saves money on cattle manure and also labour as weeds are avoided,” he elaborates.
When asked about the drive for the shift to organic farming from conventional farming, Mr. Raghu shares, “I am into farming since 1992. I was cultivating hybrid paddy, pigeon pea (tur dal), groundnuts, sunflower for seeds with the use of chemical agri inputs. In 2006, I happened to attend 5 days workshop of Mr. Subhash Palekar and then after immediately adopted organic and zero cultivation method of farming. As I suddenly stopped the use of chemicals the crop production dropped drastically. Nevertheless I continued with organic farming practices with perseverance to learn about the natural manures that are offered by the nature. I started growing dicot crops precisely urad, tur dal, green grams and groundnuts. With passage of time 76% nitrogen was fixed in the soil naturally. With these crops and use of jeevamrutha I finally got good yield of cowpeas. The next successful crop was banana and since then there is no looking back.”
Land preparation for millet cultivation begins in March. “First I sow green gram seeds to fix nitrogen in soil and it gives the first income of the year. If the land is left fallow weeds will be grown and it would be unnecessary expense hence it is best to grow pulses. Next the millets are grown in pre-monsoon,” he clarifies.
Millets can grow in any soil in minimum water. Pre monsoon that is from May – September 15th is the ideal time to cultivate all millets except proso and kodo millets. “Desi kodo millet should be sown in June but hybrid kodo millet can be sown in July. Proso millet has to sown in August,” he highlights. Average rainfall is sufficient for all millet varieties. “Only condition is that there should be no water logging else millet crop production will get spoilt.”
All millet variants would give good harvest till 2-3 years when grown conventionally with the use of chemicals but slowly the soil would surely lose its’ fertility. “If chemical manure is given more quantity then the plants will grow taller but once the wind blows the seeds would fall on the ground leading to the total crop loss. This is the reason why for soil health and high crop yield use cow based manure,” explains Mr. Raghu.
Mr. Raghu began value addition in the year 2011. “Farmer growing any crops will get good income if he goes for value added products. Following the same thumb rule I process brown top millet into rice, rava, flour etc as value added products. I sell limited quantity of millets for seeds while rest of the produce is value added. Rice and flour are sold in wholesale and retail. Along with this I also take contract for millet cooking. It is indeed profitable. Presently entire processing is done manually but soon I am planning to get a machine to remove the husk,” he states.
Sharing future plans he concludes, “There are two types of brown top millet – gundu and kedaru korle (panicle will be distorted). I want to cultivate these for seeds and want to grow both separately. In addition, I can travel to any extent to give information on brown top millet cultivation to the farmers. Brown top, foxtail, little, kodo and barnyard millets are super foods hence must be included in daily diet. I strongly feel that every farmer should grow these millets not only for money but for their health too. At Least 10-20% of total farmers’ land holding should necessarily have millet cultivation. These days I am only on one mission to bring change in the life of farmers and consumers through brown top millet.”
Mr. H. K Raghu
S/o Krishna Rao, Hemdore At PO, Sira Taluk, Tumkur District – 572 135, Karnataka