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Hybrid Millets in India

Hybrid Millets in India

Context: United Nations declared the 2023 as the “International Year of Millets” on the suggestion of India. The government announced production and distribution of certified seeds of newly released varieties/hybrids. But there is speculation that their hybrid varieties may not be as effective as the traditional ones.

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What are Millets?

  • Millets are a group of small grained cereal food crops. They are tolerant to extreme weather conditions and they can grow with low inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Millets are grown on about 17 million ha with annual production of 18 million tonnes and contribute 10 percent to the country’s food grain basket.
  • Millets are classified into Major Millets and Minor Millets based on their grain size.
  • Millets are popular as Nutri- cereals as they provide most of the nutrients. Required for normal functioning of human body. Millets are Gluten free and good for people who are gluten-intolerant.
  • Such as sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet (Major millets) foxtail, little, kodo, proso and barnyard millet (minor millets). Millets are oldest crops known to the humanity.
  • They are highly nutritious, non-glutinous, non acidic foods and have many nutraceutical and health promoting properties especially the high fiber content. It also contains protein, essential fatty acids, dietary fibre, B-Vitamins, minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium.

What is a Hybrid Crop?

  • Hybrid seed is created by cross-pollination among plants which are genetically diverse.
  • Hybrid crops in India began after the start of the Green Revolution, which aimed to achieve food security through increased crop production.
  • The new Hybrid seed is produce by cross-pollinated plants which are genetically diverse.
  • In India Hybridization of crops began after the start of the Green Revolution, which aimed to achieve food security through increased crop production.

Hybridization of Millets:

There have been initiatives to develop high yielding and disease-resistant varieties of millets as well.

Initiative such as:

Project on Intensified Research on Cotton, Oilseeds and Millets established in 1958

The All India Coordinated Millet Improvement Project, 1965 etc.

Hybridization techniques in finger millet. Hybridization using the contact method is the simplest and easiest (Ayyangar, 1934). In this method, the panicles at the appropriate hybridization stage are perform together by intertwining. In this method the fingers of the male panicle are intervene inside the female panicle.

Only large-grained major millets like sorghum (jowar) and pearl millet (bajra) allow the development of hybrid varieties. Since cross-pollination is feasible in them.

In the case of sorghum 35 hybrids while for pearl millet 25 high yielding and disease-resistant hybrids have been released. In both these millets, farmers are usually dependent on the hybrid varieties.

  • Indian Institute of Millet Research (IIMR), Hyderabad, India
    • Researching on millets
      • Total: 9 millets Included for Research
        1. Jowar (large-grained millet)
        2. Bajra (large-grained millet)
        3. Ragi (small-grained millet)
        4. Kangni (small-grained millet)
        5. Kutki (small-grained millet)
        6. Sama (small-grained millet)
        7. Kodo (small-grained millet)
        8. Proso (small-grained millet)
        9. Browntop millet (small-grained millet)

Data released by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) suggests calcium levels in pearl millet reduced from 42 mg to 27 mg per 100 g and phosphorus levels reduced from 296 mg to 289 mg per 100 g and iron levels from 8 mg to 6 mg per 100 g during 1980s to 2010s.

It seems that the decades of research on millets have missed the aspect of nutrition in them.

Way Ahead:

There is a need for a more expanded vision to promote millets which includes wide varieties of traditionally available millets as against currently nine millets researched in the country.

Some crops are getting extinct with change in cultivation practices which needs to address.

Identifying and promoting lost or less grown varieties will help ensure the real benefits of millets reach people.

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