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Date/Time:  5/3/11 18:28 GMT
 

Digitaria exilis

It remains an important crop for West African
farmers although its production is inhibited by several factors, among which are poor
agronomic performance because of unimproved seeds and husbandry practices. Annual
production in West Africa, which is grown on about 380,000ha, is estimated at about
250,000 tonnes (Cruz, 2004). In Nigeria, annual yields of 3,098 metric tonnes, 112,000mt
and 126,000mt have been reported (Abdullahi and Luka, 2003). Two acha types or species
are commonly recognized. The Digitaria exilis (Fig. 1) and Digitaria iburua (Fig. 2). Acha
grains (Fig. 3) are rich in methionine, an essential amino acid that is lacking in many
major cereals (Temple and Bassa, 1991). The diets have relatively low free sugar and low
glycemic content and this makes it adequate as a suggested diet of diabetic patients.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Twenty six acha accessions obtained from different sources in Nigeria were planted
in the field during the 2002-2004 cropping seasons at the Musa Valley in Bida area of
Niger State (9o045’N and 70.57m a.s.l.). The accessions were planted in plots measuring
2m by 3m, and replicated three times in randomized complete blocks. Cultural and
management practices included hand weeding at 6, 10 and 30 weeks after planting
(WAP). The trial was planted by uniform broadcasting of weighted seeds across plots.
Basal application of fertilizer was carried out at 3 WAP using 20k N per hectare, 30kg P205/
ha and 30kg K20/ha. Data was collected using a 1m2 quadrat across plots in determining
some morpho-agronomic descriptions such as germination percentage, tiller number
per plant, days to 50% flowering, leaf length, leaf diameter, peduncle length, internode
length, spike number per panicle, plant height, days to maturity, straw weight and grain
yield. The data were subjected to statistical analysis including multiple regression and
principal component analysis and pooled results for all cropping seasons are presented.
DISCUSSION
These results revealed that there is extensive genotypic diversity existing among the
evaluated morpho-agronomic traits. Specifically, about 40% of the correlations exhibited
significant status. The positive correlation between germination % and other traits shows
that good germination is necessary for proper growth and development. However
the negative correlation with straw weight may tend to express that poor germination
can lead to high straw yields. Days to 50% flowering tended to be relatively influenced
by traits such as tiller number per plant, leaf area and spikelet number per plant.
Taxonomically, it is possible that the two Acha species under study D. exilis and D. Iburua
may affect the quality of the correlations since they are from two Acha species. A close
look at the principal component show that there is a higher discriminatory value among
the vegetative traits as compared to the seed related traits. This is expressed in the value
of significant contributions of correlation observed among these traits as compared
to the seed-related traits. The identification and description of the genetic variability
available in germplasm collection are the basis of improved strategies designed to
control genetic erosion.

Acha Digitaria exiles (fonio or hungry rice) an indigenous cereal which is widely grown
in the middle belt region of Nigeria has the potentials for malt production. Acha is one of
the most nutritious of the cereals known to man (NAS, 1996). Ruskin et al. (1996)
reported that acha is rich in methionine and cysteine the limiting amino acids of most
cereals. Acha contains about 7% crude protein that is high in leucine (9.8%), methionine
(5.6%) and valine (5.8%). It is believed that its methionine content is twice as high as
those of egg proteins (Temple and Bassa, 1991).The low carbohydrate content of acha
has made it to be a complement in diabetes’ diets. It gives attractive flavour to porridges
(Hulse, 1980) is a good substitute for semolina for Europeans and has been used for
brewing beer, Wikipedia (2008). Its increase utilisation has prompted the present study
on the possibility of modifying the grain into ‘acha malt’ for making quality malt drink.
According to Philip and Itodo (2006), acha has the potential of providing enough food for
the increasing population of poor people in West Africa and in the Continent.
Cultivation
In the year 2002, a total area of 347,380 hectares was devoted to acha production in
Africa, with Nigeria alone providing almost half of that area (FAOSTAT, 2003). Acha is
a small annual herbaceous plant that grows to a height of 30-80 cm. Acha is grown in
various parts of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Mali, Benin
Republic and Cote d’ Ivoire (Jideani, 1999; Gyang and Wuyep, 2005). Acha is not a
demanding crop and will tolerate a wide range of soil fertility. The potential for the
4
production of acha grain in Nigeria is high, as it is superior to other cereals in
performance under moisture stress and low soil fertility. It also has good capacity to

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Digitaria exilis
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