Pearl millet – crops that resist drought and disease

Agricultural improvement is vital to poverty alleviation

Pearl millet is a vital sustenance crop in some of the world’s driest and poorest regions. Working with breeders in India, IBERS scientists and its partners have developed a new variety that can withstand the most common disease affecting the plant.

Benefits: More productivity and a higher rate of success in a life-supporting crop. A vital development in combating some of the
challenges of climate change and food and water security.

Pearl millet is one of the few sustenance crops that can grow in very poor soil in very dry parts of India and Africa. But even lower and more unpredictable rainfalls have caused major problems, whilst a disease called downy mildew can destroy as much as 80% of the crop.

By mapping parts of some varieties’ genomes that affect their ability to resist drought and disease and then cross breeding them with varieties that have a high yield and other postivie traits, a new variety called HHB 67 Improved has been developed by IBERS and its partners that was released in 2005 for country wide cultivation. It can help transform the lives of many farmers and their families.

IBERS is working with scientists in India and Ghana and in the international body ICRISAT to transfer these valuable traits into other varieties of pearl millet worldwide.

The big picture: IBERS scientists are at the forefront of the gene-led revolution in plant science. By mapping varieties for clusters of genes that cause particular traits and then cross breeding, they can grow new varieties that flourish better in particular habitats or are suited for particular purposes.

Want To Know More?

Dr. Rattan Yadav
+44 (0)1970 823174
rsy@aber.ac.uk