Panicum exile (Kippist) A.Chev.
Paspalum exile Kippist
Paspalum longiflorum Chev.
Common Name: Fonio Millet
Fonio millet is an annual grass growing from 30 - 80cm tall.
The plant has been cultivated for its edible seed for thousands of years in western tropical Africa[
]. A staple food in various parts of West Africa, where it is also known as ‘acha’ or ‘fundi’, it is also considered to be a prestige food (‘chief’s food’) and a gourmet item[
Cultivated in tropical west Africa, it is not known as a wild plant.
Not known in a truly wild situation.
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Fonio is grown at sea level in Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, but more often it is cultivated at elevations of 600 - 1,500 metres[
]. The average temperature in the growing season ranges from 20°c at higher altitudes to 25 - 30°c near sea level[
]. Fonio is grown in areas with an average annual rainfall of 150 - 3,000 mm, but its cultivation is concentrated in regions with an average annual rainfall of 900 - 1,000 mm[
]. The plant is not as drought resistant as pearl millet, but fast-maturing landraces are suited to areas with short and unreliable rains. In areas with very low rainfall it is grown in valleys benefiting from run-off water[
Fonio can be grown on poor, shallow, sandy or rocky soils unsuitable for other cereals, but does not prosper in saline or heavy soils. On the Fouta Djallon Plateau of Guinea, it grows on acidic soils with very high aluminium contents[
Flowering usually occurs 6 - 8 weeks after the seedlings emerge[
]. The time from sowing to maturity is normally 2 - 5 months, though certain landraces mature so quickly that they produce grain just 6 - 8 weeks after planting, long before any other cereals, and so they provide food early in the growing season[
At maturity the stems bend down due to the weight of the grains[
Grain yields of fonio are normally 600 - 900 kg/ha, but yields of over 1000 kg/ha have been recorded. In marginal areas yields may be as low as 150 - 200 kg/ha[
Fonio is usually cut with a knife or sickle, tied into sheaves, dried and stored under cover. Mechanization is difficult because of lodging[
]. When plants are dry, the grain shatters easily, and therefore it is better to harvest before the dry season has fully established and the relative air humidity has considerably declined. Harvesting is often staggered, to suit the immediate needs of the farmer[
The plant may have derived in cultivation from Digitaria longiflora[
Seed - cooked. Used as a staple cereal by some native peoples in western Africa, it is often ground into a fine semolina-like flour and made into breads, couscous etc, or eaten as a gruel[
]. The flour is made into thick, unfermented porridges (‘tuwo acha’), whilst the fermented grains are used for making thin porridges (‘kunu acha’)[
]. The whole seed can also be popped like popcorn[
]. The tiny seed is highly nutritious and palatable, it is considered to be a delicacy by the local people who grow it[
Fonio grain is considered to have medicinal properties; it is recommended for lactating women and diabetic people[
The chopped straw is mixed with clay to build the walls of houses[
]. The straw is also used as a fuel for cooking or to produce ash for potash[
Seed - best sown in situ, only just covering the seed. Fonio normally germinates 2 - 4 days after sowing and grows rapidly[
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