After a slow start in 2006 following its official release in late 2005, pearl millet hybrid HHB 67 Improved was grown on >60 000 ha during the 2007 rainy season. Its good performance, and higher downy mildew disease resistance compared to the original HHB 67, has stimulated large demand for seed, and both public- and private-sector seed producers are now engaged in meeting this.
Andhra Pradesh State in southern India is famous for pearl millet hybrid seed production. Each summer, farmers in Nizamabad district produce >70% of the country's pearl millet hybrid seed requirement, with annual profits estimated at US$8 million. Farmers earn net profits of Rs 9,000-10,000 (about US$250) per acre through this activity, which had previously concentrated in and around Nizamabad, and has lately spread to Kurnool district as well.
This summer, large-scale seed production of HHB 67 Improved was taken up in Nizamabad and Kurnool districts. Naveen Seeds of Adoni, took up seed production on 210 acres in Gajja Halli village in Holagunda mandal of Kurnool district, on vertisols irrigated with water from the lower Thungabadra canal. Farmers there grow chillies and sunflower during the rainy season and pearl millet hybrid in the summer.
The crop was sown in mid January and was ready for harvest when ICRISAT scientists visited in early April. Seed was directly sown by bullock-drawn implements in rows about 60 cm apart. This distance facilitated interculture operations by bullock-drawn implements. The male (H 77/833-2-202) to female (843-22A) row ratios ranged from 1:4 to 1:12 in different plots. The male and female rows were sown on the same day and there was good nicking during flowering, with the male flowering 2 days in advance of the female. The crop was excellent, with good uniform growth, tillering and very good grain filling. Farmers are most pleased and are expecting 8-10 quintals of seed to be harvested per acre (2.0 to 2.5 t ha-1).
Since its release in 2005, over 2 t of Breeder Seed of the parents of HHB 67 Improved (830 kg of pollinator, 1213 kg male-sterile line, and 191 kg maintainer line) has been supplied by ICRISAT to seed producers, largely for direct multiplication of Certified Seed of the hybrid, but now increasing for Foundation Seed production. With large areas under "HHB 67 Improved" hybrid seed production this summer, we expect that in the coming 2008 rainy season, over 500,000 ha in Haryana and Rajasthan will be sown with HHB 67 Improved, benefiting thousands of farm families.
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