Bajra Farming and cultivation guide
Facts about Pearl millet
- Fast Growing crop -Takes less than 90 days from sowing to harvest
- Drought tolerant – Excellent crop for dry areas where water provision is scarce
- Low seed requirement: 3KG seeds per hectare are all that is needed and the prices for seeds are extremely low
- Seed availability and hybrids: A range of seeds are available and there are hybrids with high yield
- Can be cultivated almost all over India.
- Tamil Nadu has the highest yield in bajra.
- Areas of cultivation include Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana
- Staple crops for millions in India, especially in rural areas.
- High nutritional value
- Grows in almost all kinds of soil including black soil
- A yield of 23-35 Quintals per hectare in grains and 120 Quintals of fodder is possible in irrigated conditions.
- The crop is low maintenance with minimal fertilizer requirements.
- Intercropping is widely practised in bajra cultivation. Cowpea, Tur and Groundnuts are commonly intercropped with Bajra. Sunflower, Pigeon Pea and Soyabean are also common intercrops with bajra in irrigated conditions
Pearl Millet ( Bajra) Cultivation and practices in India
- Climate for Cultivation: Bajra is cultivated in dry weather conditions. The best climatic conditions are when the temperature is between 20 and 30 degrees and there are no rains. In Gujarat and Rajasthan, bajra is cultivated just after the rains or during February, march when there is no rainfall. Irrigated crops are known to have better yields and rainfed crops don’t tend to do as well. It is a Kharif crop in most parts of the country. July to mid august when the rains are nearly at their end in the northern region is preferred for the bajra crop.
- Ideal Soil for Cultivation: Bajra grows in almost all soil types. It does best in Black soil with good drainage. Other soil conditions are also suitable for Bajra. Sandy loam soil is also known to be good for bajra cultivation.
- Varieties of Bajra: Each state has its variety of bajra developed by its respective agricultural universities. in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, the NBH-149 and VBH-4 Varieties are known to produce higher yields. The ICM4-155 is known to have a higher yield throughout India. There are other hybrids like the NH338 and MP-204. A total of 40 Commercial hybrid varieties are cultivated throughout India depending on the soil and weather conditions.
- Sowing: Sowing is done in Drilling or dibbling methods for bajra. The seed quantity depends on the sowing method and an average of 4-5 KG per hectare is used for the drilling method and around 3 kg for Dibbling method. The spacing between plants is 10-15 cm and the row-to-row distance is 40-45 cm. Sowing is best done during the last week of July for rainfed crops.
- Season: The season best suited for bajra cultivation in Gujarat is from February to May and November to February. The same season is suitable for Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. For the southern part of India, the best time to sow the crip is from February to May for irrigated crops or From August for rainfed crops.
- Land Preparation: The land has to be ploughed thoroughly for Bajra cultivation. 2 ploughing and levelling after the application of FYM are required to revitalize the soil. Though Bajra crops thrive with minimal nutrient input, the hybrid varieties are high-yielders and require external input in terms of fertilizers. Basal application of Nitrogen is often recommended.
- Spacing and Density: Seeds are sown in rows of raised ridges. The spacing between plants is 10 to 15 centimetres and the spacing between rows is 45 centimetres. Water should be well drained and waterlogging should be prevented.
- Intercropping: Intercropping of bajra with other crops is very common. The intercropped plants vary in the area. in Rajasthan, Cluster beans, cowpeas, green gram, and moth beans are commonly intercropped. other crops which can be intercropped are Soya, sunflower, and pigeon pea. Intercropping is done based on the area and its suitability for the crop according to the season.
- Irrigation: Irrigation is important during the initial stage for the plant to grow. Fortnightly irrigation during the first 2 months is recommended. Irrigation is important immediately after sowing to ensure uniform plant growth and sprouting. Irrigation during the right intervals will provide healthy plant growth. The irrigation schedule may vary depending on the water retention capability of the soil and the overall weather conditions. Irrigation is completely stopped during the last stages when the ears are fully matured. it’s important to remember that though bajra is drought tolerant, they are sensitive when it comes to hybrid varieties.
- Fertilizers: Though Bajra does not require an abundance of fertilizers like many other crops, hybrid varieties do require some form of fertilizer input. This includes the basic NPK formula at an 80:40:40 Kg ratio. They are spread out in 3 intervals for urea at the sowing stage 15 days and 30 days at a ratio of 25: 50: 25 . For Phosphorus and potash, the fertilizers are applied during the sowing stage as basal fertilizers. It’s important to understand that fertilizer application should not touch the plants and should be around them. Bajra plants are sensitive to chemical fertilizers and often wilt when applied directly to the root. Leave a space of at least 6-8 inches around the plant while fertilizing.
- Pests & Diseases: Shoot Fly, Stem Borers, Pink Stem borers, Grain midge and stink bugs are common pests in bajra. Diseases include Downy mildew, ergot, rust, head mould and leaf spots. Application of pesticides can prevent the condition and if seen, the plants should be removed and burnt farm from the area.
- Harvesting: Harvesting practices vary depending on the area. In the south, the heads are cut separately while the straw is cut after a week. In the northern parts, the entire straw with the heads is cut and then trashed for the grains.
- Post Harvest: Grains are to be dried with below 10% moisture for Grain purposes. The application of chemicals is not recommended but is practised by some farmers to prevent moths and weevils. once harvested, the grains are threshed. Threshing with stone rollers, mechanical threshers or cattle threshers can be used depending on availability. The grains may require further drying if the moisture content is 10% or more.
- Yield: Yield varies depending on rainfed or irrigated. Also, the variety of the seeds plays a major role. An estimated 2.3 tonnes of yield can be expected in rainfed crips and 3.7 tonnes in irrigated crops in hybrids are common. Irrigated crops often tend to yield better than rainfed crops.
- Area of cultivation: in the North, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh are known to cultivate the most amount of bajra. The total yield per acre is much higher in Tamil Nadu as compared to most other states. When it comes to consumption, bajra is mostly consumed in the northern part of India.
- Market information: Bajra has always commanded a decent price in the market. The price is currently 2970 per quintal and has steadily risen over the past decade from 880 rs in 2010. There is no reason to believe that the market for bajra will reduce. on the contrary, chances are that the market for bajra will increase with more and more people moving to a healthy lifestyle and appreciating the value of bajra.
- Weed Control: Weeding is controlled using chemical weedicides in bajra plantations. . Pre emergence weedicides are known to control weeds during the first fortnight of the crops. Weeding at least 30 -35 days from sowing may be required. If pre-emergence weeding is not done, manual weeding during the 15 and 20th days should be done to prevent weeds.
- Seed: Depending on the variety and the type of sowing, you may need 3-5 KG seeds per hectare. Seeds can be obtained from the nearest agricultural university or seed vendors. Most hybrids are widely available in the market today.
- Profit Per acre: Bajra cultivation is not the most profitable crop but being an off-season crop and a crop which can be cultivated during the slack period in many parts of the country, the meagre profit is worth the effort. An average income of 15,000 Rs can be earned as pure profit from bajra farming per acre. though the amount seems very minimal, it’s a great blessing for farmers as the amount is easily available in as little as 2 -3 months.
- yield Per acre: Average yield per acre for bajra cultivation is approximately 15 Quintals. Depending on your area, seed, season and the type of crop (rainfed vs Irrigated) the profits may increase or decrease a bit.
- Cost of farming: All expenses including labour and land preparation would amount to approximately 15,000 Rs per acre. Any expenses above 15000 are not recommended per acre.