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Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertner cv. group Finger Millet

Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertner cv. group Finger Millet




Cynosurus coracan L., Eleusine indica (L.) Gaertner f. coracana (L.) Hook.f. ex Backer, Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertner subsp. coracana sensu Hilu & de Wet.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Rumput sambau, ragi.
English Finger millet, African millet, koracan.
Indonesia Jaba (Batak Karo), suket lulangan (Javanese), jampang     carulang (Sundanese).
Cambodia Chë:ng kra:hs, si:ng söng.
Laos Pha:k kh'wa:y.
Thailand Khao-pangsamngam.
Vietnam M[aaf]n tr[aaf]u, c[or] m[aaf]n tr[aaf]u voi, c[or] k[ee].
French Eleusine, coracan.

Geographical Distributions

Eleusine coracana most probably originated about 5000 years ago in the highlands of eastern Africa (from western Uganda to Ethiopia) by domestication of wild weedy forms and is the oldest known domesticated tropical African cereal. From eastern Africa, it was taken elsewhere: to India about 3000 years ago and to southern Africa about 800 years ago. As a cultivated crop, it is at present most important in eastern and southern Africa and in the Indian subcontinent, and is occasionally cultivated elsewhere in the tropics. In Southeast Asia, it is grown on a small scale but nowhere reaches commercial importance.


E. coracana is a robust, tillering, tufted and annual grass that can grow up to 170 cm tall with a shallow, branched, fibrous and adventitious root system. The stem is erect to ascending, compressed, robust, smooth, light green shiny and sometimes branches at the upper nodes.

The leaves are numerous and distichous. The sheath is flattened, overlapping, split along the entire length and hairless except for some hairs along the edges. The ligule is short and fringed. The blade is linear, measuring 30-75 cm x 1-2 cm, often folded, recurved, scabrous above and dark green.

The inflorescence is a terminal cluster of 3-6(-26) dense sessile spikes ('fingers'). The cluster consists of a digitate whorl terminal and often with 1-2(-7) additional 2-4 cm spikes below this whorl. The spikes are 3.5-15 cm long, measuring up to 1 cm in diametre, straight and spreading or variously incurved and compact and unbranched or branched. The spikelets are ovoid-elliptical, measure up to about 1 cm long, awnless, flattened and contain of 6-12 florets that arranged alternately in two parallel rows on a zigzag rachilla. The florets are hermaphrodite but the terminal ones are may be sterile or male. The lemma is 2-5 mm long and deeply boat-shaped. The palea is about three-quarters of the length of the lemma. There are 3 stamens while the ovary is with 2 free styles and with plumose stigmas.

The fruit is a utricle, 4-7 per spikelet, spherical, measuring 1-2 mm in diametre, smooth or rugose, varying from orange to red, red-brown and dark brown to black or white. The pericarp remains distinct during development and at maturity appears as a papery structure surrounding the seed.

Ecology / Cultivation

E. coracana is mainly grown in the tropics, from sea level up to 2400 m altitude (in Nepal, up to 3150 m altitude), preferably in areas with the optimum day length of about 12 hours. It has a C4-cycle photosynthetic pathway. The optimum temperatures are an average maximum of above 27°C and an average minimum not below 18°C. It needs about 750 mm rainfall during growth (average annual rainfall usually 900-1200 mm), well distributed during the growing season and without prolonged spells of drought. It is not as drought tolerant as sorghum and pearl millet and, unlike rice and maize, does not grow well with heavy rainfall. At harvesting, a dry period is required. It grows on a wide range of soils, but reasonably fertile and well-drained sandy loams are preferred with a pH of 6.5-8. It does not tolerate waterlogging. In Southeast Asia, E. coracana is grown in semi-arid to sub-humid areas.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 10: Cereals.

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