Agri Business

Genetic diversification research in pearl millet pays off

Soma Hyderabad | Updated on June 08, 2011 Published on June 08, 2011

pearl millet

The near doubling of productivity of pearl millet promises to make an impact on the food and nutritional security needs of the rural poor. The growth has come through years of strategic research on genetic diversification by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)

The joint work has boosted pearl millet yield in three phases of hybrid development. From an average of 620 kg/hectare in 1990-1993, pearl millet yield went up to 714 kg/ hectare in 1994-1997 and increased further to 917 kg/hectare in 2006-2009, for a 47.9 per cent improved yield.

“This was achieved with much lesser investment in research and development (R&D) compared to other crops and given the greater environmental challenges in pearl millet production,” said Dr O.P. Yadav, Project Coordinator of the All India Coordinated Pearl Millet Improvement Project of ICAR.

Genetically diverse hybrids are currently grown in over 60 per cent of approximately 10 million hectares in India. Total grain production has increased from 3.5 million tonnes in 1965 to 9.5 million tonnes in 2010, owing to the development of high-yielding single cross hybrids and their adoption by Indian farmers.

“The current research strategy at ICRISAT is to develop crop varieties that will overcome the adversities of climate change, and thereby reinforce the food and income security of the poor, particularly in the dryland tropics,” stated the Institute's Director-General, Mr William D Dar in a news release.

In terms of income generation, the 47.9 per cent increase in grain yield translates to an additional income of more than $395 million/year for Indian farmers based on 9.5 million hectare area and a gate price of Rs 7/kg .

With increased productivity, pearl millet, a nutritious cereal, has also been significantly contributing to the food and nutritional security of 15 million households in India. Research on the diversification of the genetic base of seed parents of hybrids by ICRISAT and ICAR also led to overcoming the recurring problem of downy mildew epidemic in pearl millet hybrids.

Published on June 08, 2011
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