ICRISAT student researcher employs advanced technology for pearl millet trait development in US collaboration
PhD student Rashika Aher made the most of an opportunity to carry out research at Corteva Agriscience, Johnston, Iowa, USA. She recently returned to ICRISAT after completing a 10-week collaborative research assignment, which involved shuttling between two labs, improving knowledge of pearl millet transformation and gene editing with one group, while gaining a better understanding of how rancidity develops in pearl millet flour in another lab.
“We’ve enjoyed having Rasika in our labs,” states Dr Laura Wayne, Senior Research Scientist at Corteva. “We’ve learned from each other and appreciate Rasika’s dedication and passion for her work. Combining biochemistry and advanced plant breeding tools are important to finding solutions and delivering greater value to farmers and consumers.”
Pearl millet is a critical food security crop throughout the semi-arid tropics of the world. The crop produces grain in harsh conditions and is highly nutritious, yet quickly develops rancidity after milling. Any flour not used quickly must be discarded, creating potential for waste while also creating significant inconvenience for the women of the household who are most often responsible for freshly milled product each day.
“Rancidity is a major barrier to convenience with the greatest impact on women, and an otherwise valuable grain is not used to full potential,” says Dr Pooja Bhatnagar-Mathur, the Principal Investigator and Ms Aher’s supervisor at ICRISAT. “Waste is also a problem, as any unused flour must be thrown away. An improved flour would also be a value-add for marketing pearl millet flour.”
Ms Aher is the second student in two years from Dr Bhatnagar-Mathur’s team to spend time with Corteva scientists. In 2018, Ms Sirisha Kaniganti focused on sorghum transformation and gene editing, and since returning to India has developed her own capabilities for high-efficiency transformation and CRISPR-Cas editing in Hyderabad. Read about her visit here.
Dr Neal Gutterson, Chief Technology Officer, Corteva Agriscience, impressed with the progress made in the cross-institution alliance, says, “ICRISAT has been a great partner and we’re pleased to see how our collaborative research agreement signed in 2018 is already demonstrating value.”