Fonio Plant: The Origin, Cultivation and Production of Fonio Cereal

There are over 290+ species of fonio grown as a fodder crops. The plant is a glumaceous monocot of the genus Digitaria and family of Poaceae.

Farming application as cereal are found in four types. They are the digitaria sanguinalis, white fonio, black fonio and raishan. Top producers are found in West Africa, Eastern Europe and India.

Origin

The origin could be attributed to Mali’s Dagon people. Widely cultivated in West Africa it is found in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and Togo.

Over 700,000 ha are grown annually in West Africa with Guinea producing over 270,000 tons. Guinea- Bissau is the lowest producer followed by Benin, Senegal and Niger.

Types of Fonio Farmed for Cereal.

       Digitaria sanguinalis

       White fonio

       Black fonio

       Raishan

Top Producers

       West Africa

       Eastern Europe

       India

Plant Description

The plant produces inflorescence of 2 to 4 racemes and grows 40 to 80 cm. The small herbaceous plant have spikelets on the racemes grouped in pairs, three or four. The racemes are usually two or three are found on pedicels.

The spikelet’s comprises a fertile flower and a sterile flower, the former becomes the fonio grain. The varieties are sometimes distinguished by their growth rate.

Extra early verities growth cycle of 90 days, early verity 110 days. The intermediate verity has a cycle of 130 days while the late verity upwards of 130 days.

Fonio Description

       It produces 2 to 4 racemes

       Grows 40 to 80 cm

       A small herbaceous plant

       The racemes grouped in pairs, three or four

       It has 2 to 3 pedicels

       Growth cycle of 90 days to 130+ days

Cultivation

The preferred climate for fonio is tropical climate. Ideal temperature of 25 to 30, 950 to 1000 mm of rainfall. It is a hardy plant adaptable to dry season and cooler temperatures. The plant can survive in areas with low or high volume of rainfall.

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Soil

 The soil composition is light sandy to stoney or highland areas. The tough plant grows easily in marginal areas or poor soil quality.

This adaptation is prevalent in the late verities will longer growth cycle periods. Farmers who grow groundnut, sorghum, millet and rice generally use the rotation system.

Sow

The ideal period to plant fonio is the first rains. Planting is done by hand and involves serious labor requirements. The soil is loosened and seeds are broadcast sown at a rate of 10 to 30 kg of seed/ha. Maintenance is also done manually.

To reduce competition from weeds some farmers sow densely at a rate of 40 to 50kg/ha. The sowing method involves seeds lightly dug and covered with soil. Fonio germinate rapidly and requires low maintenance.

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