Researchers have found four finger millet or ragi variants in the tribal areas of Koraput, Odisha. These newly discovered types are richer in protein, fibre, antioxidants, flavonoids, and many other nutrients. Likewise, their climate resilience and high-yielding nature make them develop improved-quality millet varieties
Millets have always been a part of Indian cuisine. There are detailed descriptions of them scriptures of Yajur Veda. However, almost 50 years back, millet took a back seat as the Indian population chose more refined food grains. But every good thing tends to bounce back. And that's what exactly happened with millets now. 2023 is the International Year of Millet. India has all the reasons to celebrate these crop grains. Adding to its glory, in a recent founding, researchers have discovered much high-yielding and nutrition-dense finger millet or ragi variants in Koraput, Odisha. The cultivation of these types is primarily indigenous to this region, and it has revealed many other aspects of millet cultivation and better crops.
New finger millet species: Bhalu, Ladu, Telugu, and Bada
Six researchers from the Central University of Odisha (CUO), Koraput, and the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation's (MSSRF) regional centre at Jeypore teamed up to identify several nutrient-rich and high-yielding finger millet types grown in the Koraput district's tribal communities. The abovementioned team discovered some high-yielding ragi species, including Bhalu, Ladu, Telugu, and Bada. In particular, Telugu and Bada have already been shown to have improved nutritional content. They include more protein, carbohydrates, fibre, and energy than other foods. They are also incredibly high in antioxidants and flavonoids.
Ragi cultivation, Image Source: smartfood.org
How these ragi variants can be helpful?
These are superior to the enhanced hybrid types and have adequate capacity to answer tribal concerns about food and nutrition security. The research also indicated that these ragi types' high-yielding traits could be applied to creating new kinds.
From Koraput's tribal areas, more than 33 native finger millet genotypes (ragi variants) were gathered for researching their nutritional value, climate resilience, and DNA profiles. The genetic study of these types can be evaluated as possible genetic resources for developing improved millets. These kinds of superior nutritional and climate tolerance traits can be leveraged to create new varieties. Nevertheless, precautions must be taken to safeguard priceless genetic resources. If not, these farmers' traditional millet types will soon disappear. The time has come to act to protect these rare millet genetic treasures in their natural environment.
We hope these discoveries of finger millet variants will give more impetus to bringing these ancient crops in the limelight.