Where predominantly cereal-based diets and malnutrition exist, agricultural approaches can marginally enhance the nutritional value of some foods by elevating their macro and micronutrient content. Biofortified sorghum and pearl millet varieties and hybrids are the answer in areas where malnutrition is prevalent.



  • Development of open-pollinated varieties and hybrids with higher Iron (Fe) and Zinc (Zn) levels.
  • Bioavailability (absorption) studies of iron in pearl millet:
    • Three studies that covered different age groups in different countries – young women in Benin (study in Benin, 2013), teenagers in Maharashtra (reported in the Journal of Nutrition and funded by HarvestPlus, India) and very young children (study in India, 2013) in Karnataka, India – have shown that the bioavailability of pearl millet is estimated at 7.4% for regular pearl millet as well as biofortified high-iron pearl millet
    • All three studies used the ICRISAT-developed high-iron biofortified pearl millet variety ICTP 8203 Fe, released as Dhanshakti in Maharashtra, India, in 2013 and for all-India cultivation in 2014
    • Dhanshakti is the first iron biofortified crop cultivar to be officially released in India. It has been included in the Nutri-Farm Pilot Program launched by the Indian government. 


Pearl millet 

  • High iron (71 mg/kg), early-maturing, openpollinated pearl millet variety Dhanashakti commercialized in India; being adopted by >35,000 farmers
  • Standardized a non-destructive, cost-effective and rapid X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (XRF) screening method that benefited NARS partners in screening their breeding materials
  • High iron (>90 mg/kg) advanced breeding lines and germplasm-derived progenies identified; supplied to NARS partners
  • High-yielding and high-iron hybrid ICMH 1201 being commercialized by a seed company since 2014; adopted by 25,000 farmers, mostly in Maharashtra and Rajasthan
  • All India Coordinated Pearl Millet Improvement Project (AICPMIP) initiated a coordinated Initial
    Hybrid Biofortification trial to encourage the incorporation of iron and zinc traits into partners’ breeding programs and promote high-Fe hybrids for fast-track release.


  • Developed improved breeding lines with high yield and high grain iron and zinc by exploiting the large variability in core collections
  • ICRISAT-bred biofortified sorghum line ICSR 14001 with 50% higher iron and zinc than base level outyielded all other entries in the state multilocation trials in Maharashtra state, India
  • ICSR 14001 proved superior under on-farm testing; under testing by the All India Coordinated Sorghum Improvement Project (AICSIP) towards its commercialization.

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