Millet and sorghum grains have been cultivated and harvested as food security crops around the world, including in Uganda, for thousands of years.
In Uganda, these crops grow well in the eastern and northern parts of the country and farmers grow them as a cash crop for food security and livelihood.
Thus, scientists at the National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI) in Serere are conducting research to improve varieties of these plants to obtain better yields and adapt to prolonged drought conditions.
Finger millet is an important staple food in East Africa, including Uganda.
The same is true of sorghum, and the two cereals are known to be native to Uganda.
These plants are more nutritious than other cereals and are known to be less nutritious when malted because they provide more energy per feed than starchy ones.
They are grown in almost all agro-ecological zones, but farmers in the eastern and northern regions of the country cultivate it mainly because it is the main sustainable food used for porridge and solid food accompanied by any source.
These crops can also grow well in drought-prone areas such as the Karamoja region.
Therefore, over the years, NaSARRI scientists have been breeding breeding varieties of the two crops to increase their productivity and resistance to drought, pests and diseases.
They have concluded their research and released the latest varieties in 2020 with the main target farmers, especially Karamoja who consume a lot of these products but do not know that they can add value to them for food intake.
Faizo Kasule, research associate and cereal breeder at NaSARRI, explained that his team came up with the concept of developing finger millet, pearl millet and sorghum varieties to address the problem of food insecurity in the Karamoja region.
This is because the region depends on these crops, but farmers have limited knowledge of their agronomy and ways to add value to the harvested crops.
This is a joint study with the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) with the participation of the three countries Uganda, Zambia and Botswana.
Varieties of finger millet
Varieties released include dark black NAROMILL 1 with a yield potential of 3 to 4.1 tonnes per hectare. It grows in 100 days and is resistant to leaf blast disease, easy to thresh and rich in 9.8 percent protein and 0.6 percent calcium. It is very suitable for adding value.
NAROMILL2 is whitish in color and has a yield potential of 293-407 tonnes per hectare and matures in 102 days. It contains 12.2 percent protein and is drought tolerant.
NAROMILL3 is also whitish in color and yields 27-44 tons per hectare in 110 days. Its protein content is 10.5 percent, iron content is 88.44 mg per kilogram and it is drought tolerant.
NAROMILL4 is white in color and has a yield potential of 28-37 tons per hectare in 85 days. It has a protein content of 7.9 percent and is good for malt and drought tolerant.
NAROMILL5 is white in color and has a yield potential of 26-35 tons per hectare and matures in 100 days. It has a nutritional value of 12.2 percent protein and is good for brewing.
All varieties are resistant to leaf blast disease and neck and finger blast disease.
These are diseases that blister the millet leaf and cause the plant to wilt.
Sorghum varieties include cream-white NAROSORG1, good for industrial brewing, and the flour is good for making confectionery such as cakes, doughnuts, bread and cakes. Its composite flour is good for making porridge for the elderly, pregnant mothers and babies.
Also suitable for animal feed. Striga is tolerant and matures early, up to 100 days. Its yield potential is 2800 kilograms per hectare.
NAROSORG2 is good for food mixing, good for local brewing and minimal damage to birds, striga tolerant. It is red-seeded and yields the same as above.
NAROSORG3 is good for larger brews as well as mixing food products. Animal feed and resistant sorghum are also suitable for insect pests. Productivity potential is 2500-3000 kilograms per hectare. It has a chalky white color and optimum production height range of 1000-1600.
NAROSORG4 is good for mixing food products as well as for local brewing in western Uganda and western Nile such as Bushera, Muramba and Kwete respectively.
Resistant to grass disease, resistant to striga weeds and drought. Productivity potential is between 2800-300 kilograms per hectare and matures in 95 days.
Scientists have already teamed up with farmer groups and food producers in the region who value both millet and sorghum.
They mainly produce millet and sorghum flour mixed with roasted soybeans for porridge for babies, pregnant women and the elderly.
Millet flour and sorghum flour are also used by confectionary industries for baking and augmented with suitable varieties as mentioned above and have already been adopted by farmer groups as an income generation initiative.