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Eleusine coracana - (L.)Gaertn.

Common Name Finger Millet, African finger millet
Family Poaceae or Gramineae
USDA hardiness 8-11
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Savannah and upland grassland[200].
Range S.E. Asia. It probably arose through cultivation from E. indica.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Eleusine coracana Finger Millet, African finger millet

Eleusine coracana Finger Millet, African finger millet
J. Wilson, USDA-ARS while in Ethiopia in 2002. Image in public domain and not copyrightable.


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Eleusine coracana is a ANNUAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9. It is in flower from July to August, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses:

Seed - cooked. Used as a millet, the seed can be cooked whole or ground and used as a flour[183]. It is used in cakes, puddings, porridge etc[1, 2, 46, 171, 183]. The flour makes a very fair unleavened bread if it is first soaked overnight in water[2]. It is often used in making fermented foods[183]. Finger millet is the main food grain for many peoples, especially in dry areas of India, Nepal and Sri Lanka[269, 272]. The grain is higher in protein, fat and minerals than rice, corn, or sorghum[269]. When consumed as food it provides a sustaining diet, especially for people doing hard work[269]. The grain may also be malted and a flour of the malted grain used as a nourishing food for infants and invalids[269]. Finger millet is considered an especially wholesome food for diabetics[269]. The seed is about 2mm in diameter[2]. A nutritional analysis is available[218]. Seed yield is about 5 Tonnes per hectare[269]. Ragi grain possesses excellent storage properties and is said to improve in quality with storage. Seed can be stored without damage for as long as 50 years[269]. They are highly valued as a reserve food in times of famine. Yield depends on variety and is directly related to duration, height and tillering capacity of type grown. Types with straight spikes give better yields than those with curved spikes[269].

References   More on Edible Uses

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Seed (Dry weight)
  • 370 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 7.6g; Fat: 1.5g; Carbohydrate: 88g; Fibre: 3g; Ash: 2.7g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 410mg; Phosphorus: 290mg; Iron: 12.6mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 0.48mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.33mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.11mg; Niacin: 1.2mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes: The figures given here are the median of a range given in the report.

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Astringent  Febrifuge  Leprosy  Tonic

The seed is astringent, tonic and cooling[240]. It is used in the treatment of fevers, biliousness and hepatitis[218, 240]. The leaf juice has been given to women in childbirth, and the plant is reported to be diaphoretic, diuretic, and vermifuge[269]. The plant is a folk remedy for treating leprosy, liver disease, measles, pleurisy, pneumonia, and small pox[269].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

None known

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

An easily grown plant, it succeeds in ordinary garden soil in a sunny position[200]. Tolerates moderately moist conditions[57]. Finger millet is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation of 29 to 429cm, an annual temperature range of 11.1 to 27.4°C and a pH in the range of 5.0 to 8.2[269]. Typically a tropical crop, one of the best suited for dry farming, generally grown rainfed. It thrives under a medium rainfall, on porous soils that do not get waterlogged. With rainfall of 53-75 cm, it is cultivated rainfed; with less, it is irrigated[269]. Finger millet is very adaptable and thrives at higher elevations than most other tropical cereals[269]. Cultivated on soils ranging from rich loams to poor shallow upland soils. In India, grown on black cotton soils, but thrives on red lateritic loams. Ragi stands salinity better than most cereals[269]. Finger millet is much cultivated in tropical countries for its edible seed[1, 2, 162]. Over 20 varieties of ragi are cultivated in India[183, 269]. The numerous races under cultivation are primarily divided into purple and green types; those with straight or open spikes, encurved or closed spikes, or branched spikes; length of earheads (5-10 cm long); colour of seeds (deep brown to shade of orange-red to almost white or black); dwarf in habit (45 cm tall) to up to 1.3 m tall; poor tillering to profuse tillering; early or late maturing; suitable for growing under irrigation to growing in dry areas. Many named cultivars are involved in breeding trials in India. Most improvement is sought in increasing yields, resistance to lodging, even maturity and loose panicle[269]. The plant requires a good summer if it is to do well in Britain[K], though in warmer climes it is heavy yielding, even on poor soils[57, 171]. Plants are seldom troubled by insect pests[61, 171]. The seed stores well[171]. Plants are mainly self-fertile[269].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow early spring in a greenhouse and only just cover the seed. Germination should take place within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out in late spring after the last expected frosts[162, 200]. The seed can also be sown in mid to late spring in situ[200], though if the summer is cool it might not ripen its seed[K].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Eleusine indicaWire Grass, Indian goosegrass, Yard Grass, Goose GrassAnnual0.5 8-11 FLMHNM311
Eleusine tocussa Annual0.8 -  LMHSNM10 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

arvind   Tue Jul 20 16:02:56 2004



African finger millet, goose grass, osgras (Afrikaans), uphoko (Zulu),

mpogo (Pedi), majolothi (Ndebele), mufhoho (Venda), vogel gierst

(Dutch), tailabon (Arabic), petit mil, eleusine cultiv?e (French),

Fingerhirse (German), wimbi (Swahili), ulezi (Swahili), dagussa

(Amharic/Sodo), tokuso (Amharic), barankiya (Oromo), ragi (India),

mugimbi (Kikuya), mawere, lipoko, usanje, khakwe, mulimbi, lupodo,

malesi, mawe (Malawi), koddo (Nepal), ceyut (Bari), mbege (Tanzania),

bulo (Uganda), kambale, lupoko, majolothi, mawale, amale, bule

(Zambia), rapoko, zviyo, njera, rukweza, mazovole, poho (Zimbabwe).


Chloridoideae; Chlorideae. There are about 9 species occurring in

tropical and subtropical parts of the world.

Origin and geographic distribution:

E. coracana is found in warm temperate regions of the world from India

to Africa and also in Japan and Australia. It is present in

archaeological records of early Indian and African agriculture that

date back 5000 years, and it probably originated somewhere in the area

that today is Uganda (National Research Council 1996). It is an

important staple crop in many parts of india(mainly in hilly region)

and has been cultivated in eastern and southern Africa since the

beginning of the iron age. Before maize was introduced it was the

staple crop of the southern African region.


A tufted annual grass that grows to a height of 210-620 mm tall. The

leaf blades are shiny, strongly keeled and difficult to break and are

220-500 mm long and 6-10 mm wide. The leaves and culms are typically

green in colour. It has an exceptionally strong root system and it is

difficult to pull out of the ground by hand (Van Wyk & Van Oudtshoorn

1999). The culms and the leaf sheaths are prominently flattened. The

ligule is a fringed membrane. Inflorescence consists of spike-like main

branches that are open or contracted and are digitate or sub-digitate.

The spikelets are 5-8 mm long and 3-4 mm wide. The spikelets do not

disarticulate (break apart at the joints) at maturity. The grains are

globose. There are two subspecies of African finger millet, the wild

form (E. coracana subsp. africana) and a cultivated form derived from

it (E. coracana subsp. coracana). Wild African finger millet (E.

coracana subsp. africana) is similar to Indian goose grass (E. indica)

and may be confused with it, but the latter has smaller spikelets and

oblong, not rounded, grains. The grains of Eleusine are unusual in that

the outer layer (pericarp) is not fused and can be easily removed from

the seed coat (testa) below (Van Wyk & Gericke 2000). Uses:

Archaeological excavations show that improved forms of finger millet

were once the staple grain diet of southern Africa. In India it is

still an important grain today. In east Africa, where it is cultivated

as a cereal, five races are distinguished on the inflorescence

morphology (Gibbs-Russell et al. 1989). It is the principal cereal

grain of Uganda and is planted on more than 0.4 million hectares there.

It has been successfully grown in the United States as far north as

Davis, California, but with considerable problems of photoperiod

sensitivity (National Research Council 1996). It is a versatile grain that can be used in many different types of

food. It is eaten by grinding the grains up for porridge or, as in

Indonesia, eaten as a vegetable. Sometimes it is ground into flour and

used for bread or various other baked products. The sprouted seeds are

a nutritious and easily digested food that is recommended for infants

and the elderly (National Research Council 1996). The grain may be left to germinate to make malt, which is very popular

in southern Africa due to the sweetness of the malt (Van Wyk & Gericke

2000). Its ability to convert starch to sugar is surpassed only by

barley (National Research Council 1996). In Ethiopia a powerful

distilled liquor called arake is made from finger millet. In India finger millet is widely enjoyed as a popped grain. Finger millet straw makes good fodder and contains up to 61% total

digestible nutrients (National Research Council 1996). It is used in traditional medicine as an internal remedy for leprosy or

liver disease (Van Wyk & Gericke 2000). Parts of the plant (the leaves and culms) are used to plait bracelets

(Gibbs-Russell et al. 1989). Chemicals can be obtained from the plant, namely hydrocyanic acid. E. coracana is probably the most important weed in cultivated lands in

southern Africa due to its exceptionally strong root system that makes

it difficult to control mechanically. It is also a weed in many other

parts of the world, namely North America, where it is listed as a weed.

In Africa, the wild form (E. coracana subsp. africana) is considered to

be a weed where the cultivated form (E. coracana subsp. coracana) is

grown and is especially problematic since they are so similar in



Chromosome base number, x = 9. E. coracana subspecies coracana is a

tetraploid that derives from the wild diploid subspecies africana

(National Research Council 1996).

Leaf blade anatomy:

C4 photosynthetic pathway.


Not toxic.


the cultivated form more commonly requires 500-1000 mm of rainfall per

year. This should be well-distributed throughout the growing season and

with an absence of prolonged droughts (National Research Council 1996).

The altitude limits of the species are unknown, but most of the

cultivated finger millet in the world is found from 500-2400 m

elevation (National Research Council 1996). It tolerates cool climates,

but thrives under hot conditions and can grow where temperatures are as

high as 35oC (National Research Council 1996). E. coracana appears to

be photoperiod sensitive, the optimum photoperiod being 12 hours, which

is considered to be relatively short.

Drought tolerance:

It tolerates dry spells in the early stages of growth and then grows


Tolerance to flooding:

It will not tolerate flooding.

Soil requirements:

It can be grown in any soil type as long as the rainfall is higher than

800 mm per annum (Van Wyk & Gericke 2000). Cultivated crops of E.

coracana are frequently produced on reddish-brown lateritic soils with

good drainage but reasonable water holding capacity (National Research

Council 1996). It has greater ability to utilize rock posphate than

other cereals do (Flack et al. 1987).

Propagation and planting:

E. coracana is much hardier and less susceptible to pests and diseases

than other grain crops.

Growth and development:

From germination cultivated plants take 2.5-6 months to mature. In

southern Africa the wild form flowers any time from October to May.

Diseases and pests:

Suffers little from diseases and insects. However, it is subject to

bird predators, most notably the quelea. A fungal disease called

"blast" can devastate whole fields of finger millet. The seeds can be

stored for years without insect damage, which makes them perfect for

famine-prone areas (National Research Council 1996).


The cultivated form is considered to be a highly productive crop

(National Research Council 1996). Yields vary tremendously from

600-5000 kilograms per hectare and are not affected much by bird

damage. However, yield per unit labour is considered to be more

important in rural areas and also that there is at least some yield

during times of drought (Van Wyk & Gericke 2000). Cereal from this

species is considered to be more nutritious than any other major cereal

species. It has high levels of methionine, an amino acid which is

lacking in the diets of poor people who live on starchy foods such as

cassava and plantain (National Research Council 1996). This may be the

major reason why people of central Africa are so physically healthy

despite a limited diet.


The straw is used as low-quality roughage in India and Uganda.

Nutritive value:

Finger millet has variable nutritive value; protein contents ranging

from 6?14% have been reported, fat 1?1.4%, iron 5mg per 100g and food

energy 323?350 Kc. These are the more frequently given levels but in

some samples they are much higher. For the essential amino acids, the

most noteworthy is methionine which is reported to be 3%, an

exceptional figure for a cereal grain (National Research Council 1996).

100gms of millet consists:

344mg of calcium 283mg of phosphorous 7.3gms of protein 3.9gms of iron 1.3gms of fat

Main attributes:

It can be stored as grain for long periods without insecticides. The

seeds are small, they dry out quickly, and insects cannot live inside

them. This is important in humid Uganda where maize is difficult to

store. Called a "famine" crop because it could be stored for lean

years. Used as a first crop in new land in Kenya and Tanzania.


Dr. Vijay Kumar Yadav   Fri Nov 2 2007

Finger Millet or Madua or Ragi is a traditional staple food of people of India. In different states like Karnatka, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Chhatishgarh finger millet is grown in those rainfed areas where rice cultivation is not possible. In our state of Uttarakhand finger millet is second most important crop after rice in kharif crops. Crop is cultivated from 600 m amsl to 2200 m amsl. People use finger millet for making of Chapties and othe products. Traditionally it is also used for prevention from cold, cough and indigestion related problems. Two different research organization working on improvement of this crop one is VPKAS, Almora a ICAR research institution and another one Hill Campus of G B Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, located at Tehri disrict of Uttarakhand. Later has taken an intiative in the development varieties by hybridization between African and India type. A male sterile african type was introduced from ICRISAT, Hyderabad and used in hybridization. The lines evolved through hybridization resulted increase protein (11.26 %) and high calcium (421 mg/100g) and high iron (9.10 mg/100 g). This indicated the possibilties for African X Indian types crosses for development of nutritionally rich lines.

Salvador Garza   Sun Jun 8 2008

Sirs: We are interested in cultivating Ragi white seed EC 1540 or any similar with high protein (more of 14%) please let us know where we could buy the seed. Wishing to thank you in advance, we remain, truly yours. SGB

   Mon Apr 20 2009

need of research article on fingermillet genotype by environment interaction and stability study. m..sc student from Ethiopia.

Dr. S.G. Auti   Fri Jul 3 2009

Dear Sir, Information on Eleusine is very useful to understand various aspects. I am working on antioxidants properties of Eleusine. Looking forward for your guidance and help. Thanks Dr. Sanjay Auti

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