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Home > About SRI > Application To Other Crops > Finger Millet
- SRI Concepts and Methods Applied to Finger Millet -


  • India
        Odisha, Andhra Pradesh
        Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu,
  • Ethiopia
        Tigray, Amhara, Oromia

About the System of Finger Millet (Ragi) Intensification

Application of System of Rice Intensification concepts and methods to the growing of finger millet, known in much of India as ragi, was one of the first extensions of SRI thinking, starting in India, but then also undertaken in Ethiopia. Finger millet is a major cereal crop for the poor in both South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. (Unfortunately, there have not been SRI adaptations tried much with sorghum, a close relative of millet, but this is now starting in Ethiopia.) Ragi has been cultivated in India, and especially in the south Indian state of Karnataka, for thousands of years. However, over the last three decades, this crop has been in decline according to an article in InfoChange. The low price of ragi in the market has reportedly forced farmers to shift to cash crop cultivation and the trend is towards growing cash crops rather than ensuring your own food security. This has been compounded by the fact that the government provides subsidies for cash crop cultivation but none for food crops. Hopefully, a System of Finger Millet (Ragi) Intensification help make this crop more productive.

News and Resources:



Roller weeder for Ragi in koraputBased on its success with SRI method for rice, Pragati began promoting the System of Ragi Intensification in 2011 in Koraput district, Odisha. After successes in 2012, the NGO organised a 5th District-Level Symposium on SRI in 2013 with an objective of highlighting the System of Ragi Intensification. Four hundred SRI practitioner-farmers from different blocks of Koraput District participated in the event. Basic Ragi Intensification practices promoted include transplanting seedlings of two-leaf stage (12-15 days old) with mass of soil attached to the root at a distance of 25cmx25cm (20cmx20cm in less fertile soil) in square pattern. The first weeding 20 days after transplanting is done with a roller weeder (right); the second weeding is done manually by hoeing.

In 2014 Kharif, Pragati was able to scale up the System of Ragi Intensification to reach 1,215 farmers over an area of 824 acres. The NGO established convergence with the Agriculture Department to mobilize 300 roller-weeders at subsidized prices, which helped 600 farmers. Pragati has promoted 7 varieties of indigenous seeds which range from 90 days to 120 days for maturity. The average number of tillers per plant hill has been 8-12, the minimum recorded is 8 and the maximum is 47. The average production recorded is 22.5 quintals (2.25 tons) per hectare, and the maximum yield was 40.80 quintals (4.08 tons) per hectare. Ragi planted with SRI methods is more resistant to lodging in inclement weather according to local farmers. (See Adhikari's 2014 report for details)


In the state of Karnataka, 95% of the cultivated dryland crop is finger millet. In Haveri district of Karnataka State, the NGO Green Foundation based in Bangalore several years ago found an indigenous farmer-devised system called Guli Vidhana for raising the yield of ragi. This methodology developed in the 1980s echoed SRI practice in many respects. The poster that Green Foundation developed to popularize this methodology made explicit the connection to SRI. Guli Vidhana methods are raising ragi yields beyond the previous maximum for the area, 1.5 t/ha, to 1.8-2.0 t/ha and even up to 2.5 t/ha in a good year. A 2011 PowerPoint presentation by C.S.P. Patil provides updated information on this System of Finger Millet Intensification in Karnataka.

In Haveri district of Karnataka State, the NGO Green Foundation based in Bangalore several years ago found an indigenous farmer-devised system called Guli Ragi for raising the yield of ragi. This methodology developed in the 1980s echoed SRI practice in many respects. The poster that Green Foundation developed to popularize this methodology made explicit the connection to SRI. Guli Vidhana methods are raising ragi yields beyond the previous maximum for the area, 1.5 t/ha, to 1.8-2.0 t/ha and even up to 2.5 t/ha in a good year.

The system, described in a 2006 trip report by Norman Yade kunte tool used in Guli Ragi production, Karnataka, IndiaUphoff, involves two very interesting ox-drawn implements that farmers had adapted to their purposesKorudu tool used in Guli Ragi, Karnataka, India.


The korudu (left) is pulled across the field several times between 15 and 45 days after transplanting, to bend over the young plants without breaking them off, causing the mildly traumatized plants to put out more tillers and more roots. The yade kunte (right) is a blade mounted on the end of a long handle pulled down the wide space (45 cm) between rows and between plants, aerating the soil at the same time that it eliminates weed competition.

SFMI finger millet comparisons

Finger Millet - PRADANIn eastern India, the NGO PRADAN worked with farmers in Jharkhand state on adapting SRI practice to finger millet (left), in what they have called SFMI, the System of Finger Millet Intensification. These alternative methods can produce much more robust and productive phenotypes.

The contrast in phenotypes was seen in the picture that illustrated the introduction of SRI concepts and practices for other crops (see photo at right). On the right is shown a representative local-variety ragi plant grown with conventional methods; in the center, an improved-variety ragi plant (A404) grown with conventional methods; and on the left, a ragi plant of the same improved variety but grown with what PRADAN staff have labeled ‘SFMI’ methods -- System of Finger Millet Intensification - perhaps to avoid the confusion of having a second ‘SRI.’ An SFMI manual, now available on the SRI-Rice website, is based on the experiences of farmers affiliated with the PRADAN rural development program in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand States and with the SRI Consortium, Chhattisgarh, India.


Finger length of finger milletWidth of Finger MilletRoots of SFMI Finger Millet


PRADAN staff also provided pictures showing phenotypic differences in the length of panicles (shown far right), in the width of panicles (near right), and most important for understanding why these differences occur, in the roots of SFMI vs. conventionally-grown ragi (left).


Andhra Pradesh:

Researchers at the state agricultural university (ANGRAU) did trials in 2004-05 with two improved varieties of ragi (762 and 708), comparing the plants’ root growth after transplanting. They were interested whether ragi would show the same young-seedling effect that is seen withTransplanted ragii in ANGRAU rice plants when managed according to SRI recommendations.

Ragi seedlings were transplanted at 10 days, 15 days, or 21 days after germination. At 60 days after transplanting the plants showed the same positive response to transplanting at an earlier age as do rice plants with SRI management. Ragi plants transplanted at 10 or 15 days of age had much more prolific root growth than do those plants transplanted even 6-11 days later. (Click on photo at right to enlarge).

A December 2017 article noted that by adopting SRI ragi cultivation and integrating it with ‘guli’ (plank) method, tribal farmers have successfully increased yield of ragi in 1,500 acres of four districts. Average yields of three to four quintals increased from eight to 20 quintals. Line-sowing instead of broadcasting, using only 500 gm of seed instead of 3 kg, transplanting young seedlings, using wooden plank or ‘cycle’ method for weeding and using liquid and solid ‘jeevamrutam’ (bio-fertilizer) are among the novel and cost-saving methods used as labour cost can be saved, according to A. Ravindra, director of the NGO WASSAN.

Tamil Nadu:

An article on SFMI published in the Indian Journal of Agronomy in 2020 showed results from a field experiment was conducted during 2015–2017 at Melakachirapattu Village, Thiruvannamalai district, Tamil Nadu. The trials evaluated the effect of different plant spacing and certain nutrient sources, on growth and yield of ‘Co (RA) 14’ Var. of finger millet (/Eleusine coracana/ Qaertn.). Among the different spacings 30 cm × 30 cm and 25 cm × 25 cm being at par with one another recorded significantly the maximum grain yield of 3.4 t/ha. The lowest grain yield (2.4 t/ha) was recorded with 20 cm × 20 cm. Among the different sources of nutrients, invariably for all the characters, 100% RDF and 75% RDF + 25% PM were at par with one another that performed the best. The second-best treatment was 50% RDF + 50% PM and the poorest performer was 100% PM. The highest grain yield (3.7 t/ha) was recorded with 100% RDF and at par with 75% RDF + 25% PM, while 100% PM resulted in the lowest yield of 2.1 t/ha. Interaction effect being significant, the grain yield was maximum with 30 cm × 30 cm and 75% RDF + 25% PM (4.4 t/ha) and the lowest was grain yield of 1.4 t/ha was recorded with 20 cm × 20 cm and 100% PM. The highest benefit: cost ratio of 3.0 was recorded with 75% RDF + 25% PM and it was same with 100% RDF. [See article for details of treatments.]


Farmers (N=340) working with the People’s Science Institute based in Dehradun in the 2009 season, a drought year, tried SRI-like methods with small plots of finger millet to assess their viability. They transplanted single young seedling at 20x20 cm spacing, adding homemade biofertilizers to the soil along with compost. The number of panicles (ears) per plant was increased to 5, compared with 3 on the control plots, with 428 grains per panicle instead of 290 grains. The yield was 50% higher, 1.8 t/ha instead of 1.2 t/ha. A greater yield increase was thought likely in a season with more normal rainfall.


Tigray, Amhara, and Oromia Provinces:

SCI applications with finger millet are began at the initiative of the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD), working with farmers in Tigray, Amhara and Oromia provinces. In 2009, three farmers in Tigray adapted SRI concepts to finger millet and got yields of 3.2, 3.1 and 2.4 t/ha, considerably higher than the national average yield of about 1 t/ha. Seventeen farmers in South Wollo zone of Amhara had finger millet yields of 2.8-2.9 t/ha, with no real difference between direct-seeding and transplanting, so long as there was regular and wide spacing between plants and good supply of organic matter for the soil. (See ISD report on piloting SRI)

Finger Millet grown with SFMI in Tigray, EthiopiaSFMI - System of Finger Millet Intensification, Tigray, EthiopiaSeveral hundred farmers in Tigray have worked previously with ISD to raise their finger millet yields just by adding compost to their soil, which is very low in soil organic matter. They have reached average yields of 2.65 t/ha, so it appears that there is some additional yield gain to be achieved with SCI crop, soil and water management practices, accomplishing more than just by moving to organic means of fertilization. Subsequent reports from 2012 have affirmed farmer interest in SFMI methods. (For a closer look, click on photos sent by Tareke Berhe during a field day in Tigray Province.)

ISD director Sue Edwards reports that previously, one elderly woman farmer who had intuitively combined a number of new practices that resembled SRI methodology achieved a finger yield of 7.5 t/ha, quite unheard of anywhere. She had raised the plants singly and wide apart, with well-drained, aerated soil. So good SCI results are not surprising to ISD or some of the farmers with whom it has been working for over a decade in Tigray province.

Oxfam America is assisting ISD and Tigrayan farmers to adapt SRI concepts and methods to rainfed cereal production in this very dry and constrained environment. More reports will be posted as results and evaluations become available. One of the three farmers reported on above who tried SRI methods with sorghum got a yield of 4.44 t/ha, encouraging other farmers to try this adaptation as well. We anticipate that sorghum as well as pearl millet, as graminaceous plants, should also respond positively to SRI-like management as finger millet does.


Finger-millet is one of the vital crops in remote areas of Nepal. As of 2018, it was cultivated in 26,3497 ha, with average productivity of 1.19 mt ha-1 and production of 31,3987 mt. Finger-millet is cultivated in all the ecological zones of Nepal, including plans (terai), mid-hill and high hill regions. Out of the total area of finger-millet cultivation, 3.78% lies in the terai region, 76.13 % in mid-hill and 20.09 % lies in the high hill region of Nepal. Low yield, high disease pressure and least mechanized practices which demands high labor requirements for weeding and transplanting are the major challenges associated with the finger-millet cultivation in Nepal.

As the introduction of the principles of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in finger-millet cultivation has shown promising results for yield increment in some parts of the world, a study was carried out by Gurung et al in the central hill region of Nepal in two consecutive years of 2018 and 2019, utilizing split-plot design with three replications where main plot factor was finger-millet varieties (Kabre Kodo-1, Kabre Kodo-2, Okhle Kodo-1 and Dalle Kodo-1) and subplot factor was methods of cultivation (standard recommended practices (conventional transplanting), System of Fingermillet Intensification (SFMI) and directed- seeded). Conventional transplanting was done by utilizing 30-day old seedlings at 10×10 cm2 spacing, SFMI was carried out by utilizing 15-day old seedlings at 25×25cm2 spacing and direct seeding was done by broadcasting the seeds in finally prepared plots, other managements practices remained similar. The result indicated that the SMFI management reduced the seed rates, days to maturity, increased the number of fingers per head, numbers of tiller per hill, head weight and reduced the leaf blast disease compared to direct-seeded and conventional transplanting methods across all the tested varieties. The grain yield and straw yield were higher in SFMI compared to direct-seeded but not different from conventional transplanting across the varieties. The highest grain and straw yield was only reported in Kabre Kodo-2. There was no yield advantage in other varieties when cultivated in SFMI compared to conventional and direct-seeded conditions. The tillering and early maturity synchronization traits of the finger-millet varieties were noticed as critical varietal traits to be considered for SFMI management. Finger-millet productivity can be enhanced by introducing SRI components in finger- millet cultivation; however, the selection of the appropriate variety is crucial. [See full article for details.]

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