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September 27th, 2017 / ISAAA, US

An international consortium of researchers from France, India, and China has published the genome sequence of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), a cereal that belongs to the family of small-seeded grasses, grown in arid areas in the Sahel region in Africa and in Asia, especially in India.

Coordinated by the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) in France, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in India, and Beijing Genomics Institute in China, the study published in Nature involved 63 researchers from 10 countries who identified a standard genome sequence for millet, containing more than 38,000 genes. The team then sequenced the genome for close to 1,000 varieties of cultivated millet and their wild ancestors in order to analyze their structure, genetic diversity, and the evolution of this cereal’s genome. The study allowed the team to trace the origin of millet domestication, found to have taken place almost 4,500 years ago on the border between Mali and Niger.

Millet is suited to dry conditions and infertile soil, and the research team identified the genes that slow down water loss from the leaves (thus conserving hydration), as well as other genes related to withstanding dry conditions. Read more