International Journal of Agriculture, Environment and Biotechnology

Citation: IJAEB: 13(1): 03-21, March 2020

DOI: 10.30954/0974-1712.1.2020.2

©2020 IJAEB All rights reserved


Nutrient Management in Finger Millet (Eleusine coracana L. Gaertn) in India

Sagar Maitra*, M. Devender Reddy and S.P. Nanda

M.S. Swaminathan School of Agriculture, Centurion University of Technology and Management, Paralakhemundi-761211, India

*Corresponding author: (ORCID ID: 0000-0001-8210-1531)

Paper No. 02Received: 27-09-2019Revised: 22-01-2020Accepted: 28-02-2020


In India finger millet is mostly cultivated in resource poor soils of tropics and sub-tropics. Synchronizing nutrient supply with crop demand is essential to maximize yield and fertilizer use efficiency. It has been found that incorporation of N fertilizer during seeding stage increased yield as compared to broadcasting of fertilizer. The continuous application of inorganic N fertilizer reduced the soil organic carbon level. The foliar application of 2% urea produced higher grain and straw yield. Application of fertilizer P @ 125% recommended dose of phosphorus (RDP) with recommended N, K and FYM in different fertility soils recorded higher grain and straw yield. Nutrient management for targeting production and sustainability, integrated nutrient management (INM) will be the most suitable option. Application of 100% NPK along with FYM @ 10 t ha-1 recorded significantly higher grain and straw yield and enriched the soil organic carbon. Application of farmyard manure (FYM) alone or in a combination with chemical fertilizers contributed to higher amounts of carbon inputs and build up a higher soil organic carbon pool in rain fed groundnut-finger millet rotation in alfisol of semi-arid region. Cropping system approach either sequential or intercropping with legume was found beneficial. Treating seeds with Azospirillum brasilense (N fixing bacterium) and Aspergillus awamori (P Solubilizing fungus) @ 25 g kg-1 seed of finger millet found to be beneficial. Soil test crop response (STCR) need to be considered for supplying nutrients more precisely with a target yield output. In the present paper, the available literature on different options of nutrients application to finger millet for sustainable productivity is reviewed.


The maximum yield potential of finger millet can be achieved through proper nutrient application.

Balanced fertilization and cropping system influence finger millet productivity.

Integrated nutrient management and STCR based nutrient management are better options of nutrient management in finger millet.

Keywords: Finger millet, integrated nutrient management, cropping system, productivity, sustainability

Millets exhibit unique characteristics amongst cereals. These can grow well under dry and aberrant weather conditions, can cope with relatively poor soils and require comparatively less external inputs than major cereals, namely rice, wheat and maize. Millets are a staple food with superior nutritional qualities and used both as food and fodder. In addition, millets sequestrate carbon, thereby adding to CO2 abatement opportunities, contribute to enhanced agro-biodiversity by their rich varietal diversity, ecologically beneficial (Brahmachari et al. 2018), allow for mutually beneficial intercropping with other important crops (Maitra et al. 2000). Under the changing scenario of global warming and climate change, cultivation of ecologically sound and hardy millets may be a wise alternative for optimum output with food and nutritional security. India is the largest producer of various kinds of millets. Out of the total minor millets produced, finger millet (Eleusine coracana L. Gaertn) accounts for about 85% of production in India (Sakamma et al.2018) and it has the pride of place in having highest productivity among small millets. In India, finger millet is cultivated mainly in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Uttaranchal, Maharashtra, and Gujarat occupying an area of 1.27 million hectares with a production of 2.61 million tonnes and average productivity of 1489 kg ha-1 (Agriculture Statistics at a Glance 2017). The crop has wide adaptation with easy cultivation, free from major pests and diseases and drought tolerance which have made this crop an automatic choice in dry farming system. Further, in the lands where finger millet crop is cultivated, no other profit making crop can be grown with reasonable harvest (AICSMIP 2013).

Finger millet is known as a low fertilizer input crop by the small farmers who live on subsistence farming. Under low nutrient input conditions, the crop expresses poor yields. In India, finger millet is mostly cultivated in resource poor soils of tropics and sub-tropics. But there are improved varieties of finger millet which respond to added nutrients. Nutrient management should be done targeting production sustainability and integrated nutrient management (INM) is the most suitable option in this regard. Further, production sustainability can be achieved through use of all possible sources of nutrients to match the soil nutrient availability with crop demand (spatially and temporally). The major advantages of INM are increase in yield, water use efficiency, grain quality, economic return, and sustainability. The site specific nutrient management (SSNM) as well as soil test crop response (STCR) adds new dimensions of nutrient management of crops. In the present article, the available scientific information in India was collected and presented in the following pages on different options of nutrient management, sources, levels and methods of application for sustaining productivity of finger millet.

Nutrient management options

Like in other crops, improved varieties of finger millet respond well to added nutrients as the crop is generally cultivated under poor soil conditions. Compared to major cereals, the recommendations available for nutrient management in finger millet is meager under different agro-climatic conditions. There is enough scope to address the issues related to nutrient management in finger millet. Researchers and technocrats advocate in favour of integrated nutrient management (INM) for different crops and cropping systems. The INM shows the path of agricultural sustainability as it provides enough scope of soil fertility enhancement including enrichment of soil microbial activity. The major objectives of INM are enhancement of crop productivity by providing essential nutrients and increase in resource use efficiency. Recent development in research in precision agriculture suggests soil test crop response (STCR) approach in different crops for targeting of nutrient inputs and yield output. On the basis of published work on nutrient management of finger millet, an initiative has been taken to bring information together on the options and methods of nutrient management under different situations to achieve production sustainability.

Chemical Fertilizers


Levels of Nitrogen

Application of the correct level of N fertilizer is important to obtain optimum yield of finger millet and thus make its cultivation profitable. Many of the soils where finger millet is grown are deficient in N. Earlier research work revealed that finger millet responded to graded levels of N and summary of some of the research findings are presented in table 1.

Time of application

Time of N application is important in finger millet production. Hegde and Gowda (1986) claimed that incorporation of N fertilizer during seeding stage increased yield by 30% compared to fertilizer broadcasting as basal dose. Synchronizing N supply with crop N demand is essential to maximize yield and N use efficiency. Further they reported that on sandy loam soils, application of N at 50 kg ha-1produced lower grain yield when applied only at planting, whereas the yield increased when the application was done in two splits (at planting and 25-30 days after planting). Chavan et al. (2018) concluded that application of N in 3 splits at transplanting (T), 30 and 60 days after transplanting (DAT) resulted in more dry matter production, efficient partitioning of assimilate and higher yield than 2 splits (T and 30 DAT) and 4 splits (T, 20, 40 and 60 DAT) at Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. On the other hand, Prabhakar et al. (2017) in direct seeded crop suggested applying 50% of recommended N at sowing and the remaining 50% in two equal splits at 25-30 and 40-45 days after sowing in the areas of good rainfall; but in areas of uncertain rainfall, 50% at sowing and the remaining 50% around 35 days after sowing was recommended. Based on a long-term field experiment with finger millet, Hemalatha and Chellamuthu (2013) found that continuous application of inorganic N fertilizer alone reduced the soil organic carbon level. On the other hand, foliar application of nitrogenous fertilizer (2% urea) expressed a positive impact on productivity of finger millet (Reddy et al., 2018) in a field experiment conducted at Kolhapur, Maharashtra during kharif season.

Table 1: Findings of levels of on finger millet in India

Phosphorus and Potassium

One of the main problems faced by the farmers is inherent low soil P in areas where finger millet is commonly grown. P has distinct role in yield improvement of finger millet. Chandrakala et al.(2017) concluded that application of fertilizer P @ 125 % recommended dose of phosphorus (RDP) with recommended N, K and FYM in very low, low and medium fertility soils recorded higher grain and straw yield of finger millet. Application of 100% or 75% RDP with recommended N, K and FYM were optimum though there was an increase in yield at higher rate of P application in high P fertility soils. The phosphorus use efficiency (PUE) was higher at lower levels of P application. Sundaresh and Basavaraja (2017) reported higher grain yield with application of 100 per cent RDN, 150 per cent RDP and 125 per cent recommended dose of potassium (RDK) along with FYM at 10 t ha-1 (100:75:62.5 kg NPK ha-1) in Alfisols of Ramanagara district of Karnataka having sandy loam soil with pH 6.3, deficient in available phosphorus (12.8 kg ha-1) and potassium (108.7 kg ha-1), under protective irrigation. Ramachandrappa et al. (2013) reported significantly higher grain yield of finger millet with recommended N, P2O5 + 150 per cent of recommended K2O applied at planting compared to recommended NPK at UAS, Bangalore on Alfisols, sandy-clay-loam in texture with pH 5.70, EC 0.07 dS m-1 and 0.46 % organic carbon, available N, P and K status was 159, 60 and 110 kg ha-1, respectively. They further concluded that application of recommended N, P2O5 + 150 per cent of recommended K2O as basal dose (50: 40: 37.5 kg NPK ha-1) is required for getting higher grain and straw yields and to achieve higher sustainability yield index (SYI), B: C ratio, potassium use efficiency (KUE) and apparent potassium recovery (APR) in rainfed areas.

Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium

Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the primary macro nutrients mainly responsible for productivity of crops. In general, fertilizer recommendations consist of different levels of macro-nutrients for higher yields. The results of experiments conducted with macro-nutrients are presented below (Table 2).

Table 2: Findings of combined application of chemical N, P and K on finger millet in India

The field experiment conducted during kharif at Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh on sandy loam soil having low in organic carbon, available nitrogen, high in available phosphorus and medium in available potassium indicated that significantly higher grain and straw yields of finger millet with 150% RDF+ZnSO4 0.5% foliar spray + FeSO 40.2% foliar spray (Sandhya Rani et al. 2017a). The highest available soil macronutrients and uptake of plant macronutrients were also found in the same treatment. Whereas, the highest available Zn in the soil was found in the treatment 150% RDF+ZnSO 4soil application + FeSO4 0.2% foliar spray (3.32ppm), and the highest available Fe in the treatment 150% RDF+ FeSO4 0.2% foliar spray (17.63ppm). Field experiments conducted at Zonal Agricultural Research Station, Kolhapur (Maharashtra) on Entisol, during kharif seasons of 2014 to 2016 showed yield enhancement of finger millet with foliar spray of 19-19-19 @ 2% over the recommended dose of fertilizer (Bulbule et al. 2018).

Organic manures in nutrient management

Organic manures play important role by supplying variety of nutrients and release them slowly, improve soil fertility and enhance efficiency of added chemical inputs. There are different kinds of organic manures and with positive impact on productivity enhancement of finger millet. Adequate application of FYM, 7.5 to 10 t ha-1 helps in better development of root growth (Prabhakar et al. 2017). Research trials showed increased growth and productivity with the application of organic manures alone or in combination with other sources of nutrients. Rangaswamy (1973) noted that FYM increased the grain yield of early and short duration cultivars by 9.5 and 3.5%, respectively. During present days, the organic agriculture is becoming popular with a steady growth in terms of area expansion and increase in production of agricultural crops. General acceptance of organic agriculture is not only due to greater demand for pollution free food but also due to natural advantage in supporting the sustainability in agriculture. Like other staple foods, finger millet has also drawn the attention of scientists and trials have been conducted on organic production of finger millet. Gawade et al.(2013) observed that differnet organic manures, namely poultry manure, farm yard manure and vermicompost applied @ 1.32, 3.0 and 1.5 t ha-1equivalent to 20 kg N ha-1 registered yield of finger millet of 2211, 1740 and 1942 kg ha-1 respectively as against 1536 kg ha-1 in unfertilized control. Basavaraj Naik (2017) in an experiment on finger millet at Agricultural and Horticultural Research Station, Bavikere, University of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, Shivamogga, concluded that application of FYM at 10 t ha-1 + biodigester liquid manure equivalent (two splits) at 75 kg N ha-1 recorded higher growth and yield attributing parameters and yield.

Biofertilizers in nutrient management

Bio-fertilizers are living and latent cells of microorganisms which under favourable conditions multiply rapidly and supply, mobilize and solubilize plant nutrients. Therefore, integration of these with organic manures and chemical fertilizers adds value for sustaining crop productivity by creating a healthy ecosystem. Treating seeds with Azospirillum brasilense (N fixing bacterium) and Aspergillus awamori (P Solubilizing fungus) @ 25 g kg-1 seed of finger millet is beneficial (Prabhakar et al. 2017). Maitra et al. (1997) mentioned that application of biofertilizer (Azospirillum) resulted in higher productivity (890 kg ha-1) as against control (711 kg ha-1). Ramakrishnan and Bhuvaneswari (2014) reported that, single inoculation of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal (AM) fungi (Glomus mossease) and combined inoculation of AM fungi with Azospirillium brasilense or PSB found to moderately increase growth. However, triple inoculation of AM fungi, Azospirillium brasilense and PSB was found to result highest growth parameters. In general, biofertilizers perform well in combination with organic manures and inorganic fertilizers. Harika et al. (2019) reported that application of FYM (8 t ha-1) + Azospirillum (5 kg ha-1) recorded more yield (701 kg ha-1) than unfertilized control (637 kg ha-1) in brown forest soil of south Odisha. Kejia et al.(2019) observed that biofertilizers performed well in combination with chemical phosphorus fertilization. The authors mentioned that application of 100% RDP ( 40 kg ha-1) + PSB @ 750 ml ha-1 + VAM @ 12.5 kg ha-1 produced higher dry matter production, yield attributes (number of tillers m-2, number of ear heads m-2, number of fingers ear head-1 and length of ear head), grain yield (4328 kg ha-1) and stover yield, grain quality parameters (protein, carbohydrate content) in finger millet whereas the treatment without any chemical fertilizer registered significantly less yield (3692 kg ha-1).

Integrated Nutrient Management (INM)

INM is the application of nutrients in crops from all possible sources in suitable and compatible manner to enrich soil health targeting sustainability. In INM, plant nutrients are supplied through organic manures, biofertilizers and chemicals to meet the requirement of crops. Organic manures are known not only to improve physical and chemical properties but to create congenial environment for soil micro-organisms and enhance efficiency of chemical fertilizers. Some of the research evidences of productivity enhancement of finger millet through INM are presented in the Table 3.

Arulmozhiselvan et al. (2013) conducted long term fertilizer experiment since 1972 under maize- finger millet cropping sequence and studied effect of continuous fertilization and manuring on productivity, soil health and nutrient removal by the crop in the year 2011 at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. Application of 100% NPK along with FYM @ 10 t ha-1 recorded significantly higher grain (2571 kg ha-1) and straw yield of finger millet, higher NPK uptake and enrichment of soil organic carbon. Long term experiment (1992 to 2011) carried out at UAS, Bangalore, Karnataka on finger millet indicated that the largest soil quality index (SQI) of 7.29 was noted with FYM 10 t ha-1 + 100% NPK, however the lowest value of 3.70 observed with control. Application of 10 t ha-1 FYM together with NPK (50:50:25 kg ha-1) sustained a mean yield of 3884 kg ha-1. The key indicators which contributed to the soil quality index (SQI) under rotation were organic C; potentially available N; extractable P, K and S; exchangeable Ca and Mg; dehydrogenase activity and microbial biomass C and N (Sathish et al. 2016). Further, application of 10 t ha-1 FYM together with 100 % NPK (50:50:25 kg ha-1) sustained a mean finger millet yield of 3884 kg ha-1 indicating that integrated nutrient management assured sustained productivity along with improvement of soil quality.

Cropping system and nutrient management

Finger millet can be accommodated in different cropping systems and it impacts of the nutrient management in the system. Pallavi et al. (2016 a, b) reported from Rajendranagar, Hyderabad, in agro-forestry system under Melia azedarach based agri-silvi system that integrated use of 75% RDN + 25% N through poultry manure and 100% RDF resulted higher yield of finger millet and it was on par with sole crop in red sandy loam soils under rainfed conditions.

Cereal-legume combination in cropping system is considered an ideal system for sustainable production. Long-term nutrient management and cropping systems experiments are needed for finger millet based cropping system to assess changes in soil quality, organic carbon pool, and agronomic sustainability. Srinivasa Rao (2012) reported application of farmyard manure (FYM) alone or in a combination with chemical fertilizers contributed to higher amounts of C inputs and subsequently to build up a higher SOC pool on the basis of a 13-year-old soil fertility management experiment of rainfed groundnut- finger millet rotation in semi-arid alfisol. Pavankumar et al. (2016) observed significantly higher grain yield, net returns and B:C ratio over mono cropping of finger millet in finger millet-groundnut rotation.

Table 3:Findings of INM studies on finger millet in India

In finger millet + legume intercropping system, generally beneficial effects are observed in terms of greater utilization of land resources, total crop yield and higher monetary returns. Maitra et al.(2000) reported reduced grain and straw yield of finger millet when intercropped with legumes compared with the pure stand of finger millet in a replacement series of 4:1 ratio of finger millet : legumes and such reduction was due to decrease in plant stand compared to that of sole cropping of finger millet. But, the combined yield of finger millet and legumes was much higher in different intercropping systems like finger millet + redgram, finger millet + groundnut and finger millet + soybean and these intercrop combinations registered higher land equivalent ratio and monetary advantage over sole cropping of finger millet in red and lateritic belt of West Bengal. Further, all intercropping combinations resulted in more productivity with 60-13.3-25 kg N-P-K ha-1 which was significantly superior to its lower level (30-6.7-12.5 kg N-P-K ha-1) and absolute control when nutrients were supplied through only chemical sources. Application of organic manures also showed positive impact on productivity of finger millet-based intercropping system. Jagadeesha et al. (2010) reported application of either sewage sludge or poultry manure compost produced significantly higher grain and straw yield of finger millet and red gram grain and stalk yield. The study clearly revealed that sewage sludge and poultry manure compost application at equivalent recommended nitrogen level could be successfully used for finger millet and redgram intercropping system to substitute chemical fertilizers.

Soil test crop response (STCR) approach

Efficient crop fertilization programme to meet the crop nutrient needs is essential for sustainable agriculture. Among the various scientific methods of fertilizer recommendations, which incorporate nutrient requirement of the crop, contribution of nutrients from soil, manures, fertilizers and fixing yield-targets is only the Soil Test Crop Response (STCR) approach (Regar and Singh 2014). Fertilizer recommendation based on yield target was first initiated by Troug (1960), which later modified by Ramomoorthy et al. (1967) to suit the Indian condition. It provides a scientific basis for balanced fertilization and balance between applied nutrients and soil available nutrients (Choudhary et al. 2019). STCR approach is aiming at obtaining a basis for precise quantitative adjustment of fertilizer doses under varying soil test values and response conditions of the farmers and for targeted levels of crop production. Studies on nutrient management in finger millet with STCR approach are not sufficient; however, Sandhya Rani et al. (2017b) reported improved growth characters, yield contributing characters, grain and straw yields and soil available nutrients in the treatment 200% RDN + 100% RDP+ 100% RDK + 25% RDZn + 25% RDS + 25% RDB integrated with 5 t ha-1 FYM which was on par with the treatment in which fertilizers were applied based on STCR equation for a targeted yield of 4 t ha-1 in soils whose nitrogen levels are low (below 140 kg ha-1), high phosphorus levels and medium potassium levels at Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh. Further, they concluded that in soils with low N (less than 140 kg ha-1) increase in the N dose up to 200% along with micronutrients could give yields on par with the nutrient supply using STCR approach and the targeted yield in finger millet could be achieved with integrated nutrient supply using STCR approach. In another experiment conducted by Saraswathi et al. (2018) on alfisols of Karnataka on precision nutrient management in finger millet, higher grain yield was reported (3238 kg ha-1) with the application of STCR based NPK and compost 10 t ha-1 for targeted yield of 4 t ha-1 over that of control (2385.7 kg ha-1). The results clearly establish the superiority of STCR approach for a target yield than other recommendations.


As finger millet is grown under low fertility soil with poor management, fertilization plays a greater role on productivity of the crop. The level, time and method of nutrient application are important. Balanced fertilization helps in realizing maximum yield of finger millet. Besides macro-nutrients, application of ZnSO4 and FeSO4 through foliage enhance productivity if the soil if deficient in these micro-nutrients. Organic manures, biofertilizers and INM play a greater role in boosting yield of finger millet with improvement of soil health. Further, legume based cropping system approach in nutrient management in finger millet plays pivotal role. The limitations in nutrient management studies in finger millet are: improvement of soil health for sustainable production and lack of researches on INM, identification of efficient finger millet based cropping system and STCR based nutrient management for different agroclimatic zones.


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