Cultivating Bajra in India – A Detailed Guide

Bajra is a common name for several types of cereals that grow in different parts of the world. The most important ones are sorghum and pearl bajra, major crops in Africa and India. Other crops in the bajra group include finger Millet, proso Millet, and foxtail Millet. Bajra has a long history of human consumption, dating back at least 7,000 years ago. 

Bajra’s History 

Bajra was first domesticated in various regions, mainly in East Asia, South Asia, West Africa, and East Africa. However, the domesticated varieties often spread far beyond their original areas. Palaeoethnobotanists, who are archaeologists who specialize in ancient plants, suggest that bajra cultivation was a lot more wide than rice in prehistory, especially in northern China and Korea. There is irrefutable evidence, such as the relative frequency of charred grains in ancient sites. Bajra also had a significant role in the prehistoric diets of Chinese Neolithic, Indian Mumun, and Indian cultures. 

Proso bajra (Panicum miliaceum) and foxtail bajra (Setaria italica) have been important crops since the Early Neolithic of China. These two types of bajra were a main component the oldest known Chinese noodles, which scientists found in a 4,000 – year – old pottery bowl at the Lajia archaeological site in north China. The noodles’ preservation astonished the scientists. Kodo Millet(Paspalum scrobiculatum) and little Millet(Panicum sumatrense) are believed to have become popular in the Indian subcontinent between 3700 and 5000 years ago. Some Yajurveda texts mention foxtail Millet, Barnyard Millet, and black finger Millet among the Millet varieties, indicating that bajra cultivation started in India around 1200 BCE.

Common bajra was the first dry grain that farmers cultivated in East Asia because of its drought tolerance, which may have helped it spread. By 5000 BCE, Asian bajra varieties had reached Europe’s Black Sea region from China. Bajra grew wild in Greece by 3000 BCE, and large bajra storage facilities exist from the Late Bronze Age in Macedonia and northern Greece.

Bajra’s Climate Requirements 

Bajra grows best in warm and dry climatic regions, and it is a drought–tolerant crop that requires a very low annual rainfall of 40 cm to 60 cm. The optimum temperature range for Bajra cultivation is 20°C to 30°C. Moist weather is beneficial during its vegetative growth. Bajra grows as a Kharif crop in the North of India and as a summer crop in some southern areas that receive irrigation. Also, Bajra grows as a winter crop in some regions within India.

Bajra Soil Requirements 

Bajra can grow in different kinds of soil. However, it prefers black cotton soils and sandy loam soils with good drainage. This crop does not do well in acidic or waterlogged soils. Therefore, it is not suitable for cultivation in wet soils. It can tolerate soils with high pH (or salinity). Bajra can grow in areas where wheat, maize or other cereal crops would not survive.

Bajra Farming Techniques 

There are three methods for planting pearl bajra:

  1. on a flat surface,
  2. with a ridge and furrow system,
  3. with a broad – bed and furrow system. Sow the seeds at a depth of 2.5 cm – 3 cm. 

You can, of course, use mechanical methods to plant your crops. Mahindra Jivo would be of a huge help to you in this regard. Both in our country’s northern and central areas, farmers sow pearl bajra as a kharif crop with the arrival of monsoon, i.e. the first two weeks of July. 

In Tamil Nadu, the rabi season starts in the first two weeks of October. If there is a gap in the population, fill it by transplanting seedlings after 2 – 3 weeks of sowing. Experienced farmers recommend dry sowing before the first monsoon rains in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region. Farmers sow pearl bajra from the 4th to the 5th Standard Meteorological Week (SMW), or from the final week of January to the first week of February, to maximise production.

Farmers plant bajra in rows 60 cm apart in the arid – western plains of Rajasthan, Haryana, and Kutch in Gujarat (A1 zone), with a low plant population of 1.00 to 1.25 lac/ha. For areas receiving more than 450 mm of rainfall (zones A and B), the crop should be planted at 45 x 10 – 15 cm spacing with a plant population of 1.75 to 2.0 lakhs/ha. For the crop, the seed rate should be 3 to 4 kg/ha in order to achieve the required plant stand.

Bajra Physiology 

Bajras are usually annuals that grow to be 30 to 130 cm (1 to 4 feet) tall, except for pearl bajra (Pennisetum glaucum), which has stalks that grow to be 1.5 to 3 metres (5 to 10 feet) tall and 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick. The inflorescences can be spikes or racemes with flowers on stalks of about equal length along an extended axis, or panicles with densely packed clusters of small florets. Except for pearl bajra, seeds are still enclosed in hulls after threshing. Hulled seeds are usually creamy white in colour. 

Bajra Crop Development 

You can divide Pearl bajra plant growth and development into three main stages:

  1. Growth Stage 1: During this stage, seedling establishment occurs, as well as root, leaf, and tiller development. Panicle initiation is also in progress.
  2. Growth Stage 2: During this stage, all leaves extend, all tillers emerge, floral initiation in tillers occurs, and the stem extends. This stage is marked by panicle elongation and the formation of floral parts. The end of this stage is indicated by the appearance of stigmas on the panicle.
  3. Growth Stage 3: This stage begins with floret fertilisation and ends when the plant reaches maturity. The accumulation of dry matter occurs mainly in grain formation. To a lesser extent, it can also occur in the expansion of tiller stems and leaves. The development of a dark layer at the bottom of the grain indicates physiological maturity at the end of this stage. This is when you should get around harvesting them. You can use the Sonalika Tractor to simplify the harvesting process several folds.


In conclusion, bajra reserves an important role in the emergence of settled farming civilizations and diversified agriculture. Bajra crops are usually annual grasses with small grains that thrive in warm weather. They have a similar nutritional value to other major grains and can withstand drought and harsh weather conditions. The ICRISAT and the ICAR – Indian Institute of Bajra Research in Telangana, research bajra.

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