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December 17th, 2018 / ICRISAT

Efforts to develop pearl millet with improved resistance to drought and blast disease recently got a major boost. The identification of promising introgression lines after multi-location trials, will help accelerate development of new varieties and increase pearl millet production and productivity.

Pearl millet is an important source of nutrition for millions of people in the drylands of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. However, pearl millet blast and extreme weather conditions are serious threats to its cultivation. This underlines the importance of identifying sources and breeding for drought and blast resistance.

Supported by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) and the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Drylands Cereals (CRP-GLDC), ICRISAT scientists from the Pre-Breeding Theme are addressing these challenges under the project ‘Synthesis of new abiotic and biotic stress tolerant genepool through introgression of alleles from wild species into pearl millet cultivars’.

“We have developed four pre-breeding populations to improve terminal drought tolerance, flowering-stage heat tolerance and blast resistance in cultivated pearl millet. For pre-breeding, we used two wild Pennisetum violaceum accessions as donors, four pearl millet cultivars comprising a forage variety, a germplasm line and two hybrid parents as recipients,” said Dr Shivali Sharma, Theme Leader and Principal Investigator of the GCDT-ICRISAT collaborative project. Read more