Cereals Icon

January 31, 2022


Cereals are the staple food of human beings. Cereals vary in their type, nutritional value and use.

In many languages the words for food are synonymous with the words for rice or wheat, which signifies the importance of these crops to the people.

Rice is an older crop than wheat. Cereals can be divide into two sections – cereals and grasses.

Some important cereals include:

  • rice (paddy). The varieties include: áus – early, áshu áman – haemantik, autumn, pre-winter boro – summer wheat barley maize (corn) oats rye millet (bájrá) Some grass seeds include:

chiná káun kheri nárkát́ia shyámá kada máruya There are other edible grass seeds grown in India, but they have little food value. On the border of coarse grains crops like millet, it is good to grow hing (asafoetida) and lemongrass. Rye is an oat group course cereal which is grown in cold countries.

Rice (Paddy)

Rice is one of the most important staple foods in the world, and is eaten by millions of people every day. In these places, the size of the rice harvest is often taken as an indication of the standard of living of the people.

There are many uses for rice and its by-products. Oil can be made from rice bran; cement can be made from de-oiled rice bran; margarine can be made from the oil of rice bran after thickening; biscuits can be made from the waste of milled rice; rice starch can be dehydrated for household and industrial use; alcohol can be made from rice; etc.

There are many varieties of rice – there are many domesticated varieties and many wild varieties. The major seasonal varieties grown in India are: áus paddy, which is an early variety; áman paddy, which is an autumn or pre-winter variety; and boro paddy, which is a summer variety. These crops take four months or approximately 120 days to mature. The straw also has some utility value according to the season:

áman paddy – the straw is long and useful as animal fodder, áus paddy – the straw is shorter and less useful, and boro paddy – the straw is very long and animals dislike it. Rice requires suitable soil and climatic conditions. The soil must be clay soil, and four tillings are necessary. The right amount of water as per the season must also be present. For boro paddy, there should always be one inch of water in the field until flowering starts; for áman paddy, there should always be nine inches of water in the field; and for áus paddy, the soil should always be wet. If these conditions are not met, the crop may fail and people may go hungry.

The traditional method of planting involves a rotation of these three varieties. Usually, it also involves the sowing of at least one “pigeon crop”. The “pigeon crop” is sown after the rice has already grown and is standing in the field. The soil is not tilled. The “pigeon crop”, which is usually a pulse like cow pea (aŕahar) or an oil seed like mustard (rái variety), is simply thrown into the field and comes up on its own. When the rice is harvested, the tops of the “pigeon crop” are also cut. This increases the yield of the “pigeon crop”, which continues to grow in the field until it reaches maturity.

If the production of rice can be increased by a better method, it will be a great benefit to the people of rice growing countries. Ánanda Nagar is demonstrating a new system of rice production whereby four rice crops can be reaped per year instead of one, two or three crops. With the system of four crops per year, there is no time for the “pigeon crops” because the field is constantly engaged in rice production. However, mixed crops can be grown. Mixed crops such as radish, big onion (big piaz), small hot onion (small piaz), and small sweet onion (sachi piaz) may be sown at the time of paddy transplantation. There cannot be mixed crops with áman because there is too much water in the field. Mixed crops grow best with boro paddy.

The system of growing four rice crops in a year requires that the rice seedlings are kept in a nursery for the first month to six weeks of their growth, because each rice crop takes four months to mature. Traditionally, the seeds are sown in a small plot at random, then transplanted in a more systematic manner. With the new system, the seeds should be grown in a nursery for the first month, and then transplanted in the field. The seedlings should always be transplanted after one month, or one and a half months at the most in some rare cases.

If the seedlings are kept in the nursery for a longer period, the production will decline. Thus, in the two and a half to three months of their main growth period, the transplanted rice seedlings will remain in the field, and the best paddy land will be utilized for the main period of rice production. The four rice crops which can best be grown with this system are áus, áman, early boro and late boro. The production of these crops varies – áman produces the maximum amount of rice, boro a medium amount and áus the minimum.

Áus remains in the field for the period of late Vaeshákha, Jyaeśt́ha, Aśádha and the first half of Shrávańa. Áus should be used as a transplanted crop, not as a sown crop. Plant early áus seedlings in the month of Caetra, and late áus seedlings in the month of Aśádha. Áus paddy does not require waterlogging the field. Along with the áus paddy seedlings, radish seedlings can also be planted. The radish seedlings should be 15 days old when they are planted. Áman remains in the field for the period of late Shrávańa, Bhádra, Áshvina and the first half of Kárttika. Áman paddy requires waterlogging. As the water level rises, the plant grows taller, but the tip should always remain above the water or the plant will die. If the water is higher than four inches, the plant will be healthy but the crop will be poor. Áman paddy requires profuse watering and water accumulation. No mixed crop can be planted with áman. At this time the big onion seeds are not ready and small onion cannot be planted as it is too small and will go under water. Thus, no mixed crops should be sown along with áman paddy, but pisciculture can be practised.

Early boro remains in the field for the period of late Kárttika, Agraháyańa, Paoś and early Mágha. In the early boro field, big onions can be transplanted (sprouted chachi piaú of the preceding period). Big onion is planted with early boro and small sweet onion (sachi piaz) is planted with late boro. Special care should be taken to obtain a big onion type which is a winter crop, as it requires less water. The big onion variety can be planted in the early boro field, but care should be taken that the top of the big onion plant always remains above the water. 60 day green gram (śát́há moog) can also be grown with late boro, as gram does not need much water. The green gram may be grown as a “pigeon crop” in the second two months of the transplanted áus, field, the second two months of the transplanted early boro field, and the second two months of the transplanted late boro field. If irrigation water is not available after the áman crop, instead of the boro crop, a “pigeon crop” can be grown. Late boro remains in the field for the period of late Mágha, Phálguna, Caetra and early Vaeshákha.

If there is a sufficient supply of irrigation water available, only boro and no pigeon crop should be cultivated after the áman paddy. Otherwise, the field should be engaged for pulse cultivation. Along with late boro, onion may be transplanted in the same field for three months. Small sweet onion (sachi piaz) takes four to five months to grow and should be cultivated in the nursery for the first one or two months before being transplanted. Onions need water (and are 67% water themselves), so they may also be harvested in the month of Vaeshákha along with the late boro. The Saḿskrta word for onion is “sukarkanda,” in Hindi it is “piaz,” and in Bengali, “pianz.”

With late boro, instead of moog, onions may be planted. Bangladesh and the Arab countries are good markets for onions. Seeds from big onions are used for producing small onion (chachi piaz), and the kalik or onion tubers from small onion are used for producing big onions. If big onions are to be harvested for marketing, then the stalk should be twisted down while it is green and about to flower. If this is done, the onion will attain its maximum size. In mid-Vaeshákha, when the boro paddy and onion are to be harvested, harvest the rice. If the stalk of the onion is also cut down at this time it is better. After that, dig out the onion bulbs, then prepare the field for transplantation in mid-Vaeshákha for áus paddy. And so the cycle continues. With paddy, only the rái variety of mustard and yellow mustard can be grown, not red mustard. Yellow mustard can only be grown as a mixed crop, not as a “pigeon crop”. To apply liquid manure to paddy, wait until one month after transplantation. At this time, weeding should also be done. The liquid manure should be applied after the weeding, and should always be non-poisonous so that it does not affect pisciculture. Rice seeds of good quality should be collected from Korea, Japan, mainland China and Thailand. Nunia paddy seeds from North Bengal are the best variety of paddy, but their production is very low. The finest and most sweet scented plants are small. Research should be done to increase their yield.


Wheat is a more recent discovery than rice. Early wheat varieties grow in Kárttika, Badra, Agraháyańa and Caetra. The prescribed period for sowing wheat is Kárttika, Agraháyańa, or up to the 7th of Paoś, that is, not beyond the 21st of December. Late wheat varieties grow in Agraháyańa, Paoś and Vaeshákha.

Wheat can be grown together with poppy (ordinary or opium varieties) and mustard. In England, wheat and poppy are commonly sown together. If, in the month of Phálguna, easterly winds blow, the ripening will be delayed. Wheat cannot be transplanted and is a winter crop, a sown crop. For mixed cropping grow lentil, pea, khesári and poppy (both ordinary and opium) along with it. If these mixed crops occupy 10% of the field, they will not hamper wheat production. Rather, the production may increase because the mixed crops fix nitrogen in the soil. Wheat requires at least three watering periods during the sowing season.


Barley grows on less fertile land.

Maize (Corn)

Maize is an all-season crop which matures in 50-90 days, depending on the variety. The rajendra variety matures in 50-52 days, but has no taste.


Oats are a winter crop which can grow in land that is not very fertile and requires little watering. They have a lot of food value but are not very tasty.


Rye has some characteristics similar to those of oats. It requires extremely chilly weather in order to grow properly. Millet (Bájrá) Millet is a summer crop which may also be grown in winter. Grass Seeds Most grasses take 60-80 days to mature. They have little nutritional value and are used by poor people to fill their bellies. There are numerous grass seeds grown for this purpose in India:

spring crops, randomly sown: chiná káun summer crops: kheri nárkát́ia shyámá kada máruya Many crops also provide good fodder for animals. Some of these crops, such as sweet potatoes and black gram, can be pruned regularly, thus encouraging more growth and providing more animal fodder. In addition, some crops need to be grown exclusively for animal fodder. One of the best grasses to encourage milk production in cows is napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum). Wherever possible, this grass should be grown on the top of hillocks and hills to conserve the best farm land for other crops. This may be a bit difficult because napier grass needs a lot of water, but the attempt should be made.


Coarse grains include:

rice wheat barley maize (corn) oats rye millet (bájrá) tapioca. The varieties include: śimul álu (Bengal) simarkand (Bihar) arrowroot Many coarse grains are also cereals, and include rice, wheat, barley, maize oats, rye and millet. These grains are discussed in the section on cereal crops. Tapioca Tapioca is more nutritious than sweet potato (shakkarkand). It is usually prepared by powdering the roots of the plant into small granules. Other products like papar and bari can also be made from tapioca. There are two varieties of tapioca:

śimul álu (Bengal) simarkand (Bihar) Arrowroot Arrowroot is a non-creeping tuber of the potato group. It is nutritious and is commonly used as a tickener. It has medicinal qualities as well. Soti is a non-creeping tuber of the potato group and is often preserved as a kind of pickle. It is also a source of chewing gum. Soti will not grow successfully in Ráŕh and its food value is much less than that of arrowroot.