Finger millet [Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn.], which figured among the six small millets in research portfolio of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), has now been formally made its mandate crop.
This is an important recognition for a crop which has been an integral part of the ICRISAT’s research portfolio.
“Finger millet has always been within our mandate crops but we want to provide greater visibility to this nutri-cereal that offers so much to smallholders in the form of economic opportunity and to consumers [including farm families] in the form of improved nutrition,” said ICRISAT Director-General David Bergvinson.
The ICRISAT genebank holds nearly 6,000 finger millet germplasm accessions from 24 countries, conserved for use in research and development, according to a release here on Saturday.
Among the ICRISAT projects that focus on finger millet, the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement of Sorghum and Millets in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (HOPE) project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is showing encouraging results in improving productivity of finger millet and household incomes in East Africa. This was achieved by enabling farmers to adopt improved varieties and associated agronomic practices and linking producers to both input and product markets.
In Malawi, the introduction of three finger millet varieties highly valued by farmers is expected to resurrect a crop that had ‘disappeared’ from the southern region of the country. Farmers wanted access to seeds of Gulu E, ACC 32 and KNE 1124 varieties, so that they can start growing the crop again, ICRISAT stated.
According to ICRISAT, finger millet variety U15 is the most preferred for its early maturity and grain colour, while IE 3779 is preferred for its resistance to blast disease and tolerance to lodging. Through a multi-institutional collaboration, ICRISAT scientists in East and Southern African region have generated a whole genome sequence of finger millet. In Karnataka finger millet is among the ‘climate smart’ crops that figures high on the agenda of the government.
The other mandate crops of ICRISAT are sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut.