To enhance the use of millets germplasm in India’s crop improvement efforts, ICRISAT’s Genebank recently showcased the genetic diversity in its small millets germplasm collection by organizing a field day on 15 November at Patancheru. Researchers from multiple organizations participated in the field day and selected desirable germplasm from over 2,500 accessions of small millets that include finger millet, little millet, foxtail millet, kodo millet and barnyard millet.
Explaining the importance of small millets in the food system and dietary diversification, for food, feed and nutritional security, Dr Kuldeep Singh, Head, Genebank, said the potential in the accessions of small millets, which are mainly landraces, is yet to be fully tapped.
“With 2023 being declared the International Year of Millets, we hope the spotlight will turn to small millets which haven’t received the attention commensurate with their potential for food and nutritional security as well as climate-resilience in dryland agriculture,” Dr Singh said during the field day organized.
Dr M Vetriventhan, Senior Scientist at the Genebank, informed the participants about small millets germplasm conserved at ICRISAT, and described the research efforts to enhance the use of germplasm in crop improvement. With over 128,000 germplasm accessions assembled from 144 countries, Dr Ventriventhan said, ICRISAT Genebank is one of the largest international genebanks. It serves as a world repository of germplasm of 11 crops, namely chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, foxtail millet, little millet, kodo millet, proso millet and barnyard millet.
The participants were presented with nearly 1,800 accessions of finger millet including >1,000 new accessions received recently from Africa, 200 accessions each of foxtail and barnyard millets, and 126 accessions of little millet of the race robusta, and some selected accessions of other small millets) for further use in the small millets improvement program. Millet researchers from ICAR-Indian Institute of Millets Research, Hyderabad, ICAR- Vivekananda Institute of Hill Agriculture, Almora, University of Agricultural Sciences at GKVK-Bengaluru, and MPKV, Zonal Agricultural Research Station in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur, participated in the event.
The ICRISAT genebank ensures continued germplasm support to crop improvement programs around the world.
Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Accelerated Crop Improvement, emphasized the use of germplasm for improving productivity and stress tolerance as wide variability exists in germplasm of small millets for desirable traits. He also underscored the importance of genetic investigation and mapping of traits to enable genomic-assisted improvement in these crops.
Mr A Venkata, IT Specialist, Genebank Database, demonstrated ways to access the ICRISAT genebank (http://genebank.icrisat.org/) and Genesys (https://www.genesys-pgr.org/) database to view and download the passport and characterization data of accessions, and ways to directly send seed requests to the genebank from Genesys.
Participants visited genebank facilities such as cold rooms, seed labs, the seed processing area and the glasshouse, where the genebank staff demonstrated the use of various equipment and machinery related to seed processing.
“We regularly use ICRISAT’s millet germplasm in our breeding program. This field day gives an opportunity to visually observe an enormous diversity in small millets and allows selecting many trait-specific and diverse germplasm for utilization in millet improvement programs,” said Dr Dr Elangovan from ICAR-IIMR, Hyderabad, who was one of the participants in the field day. He appreciated the genebank’s modernized seed processing facility.
Dr Nagarajan from University of Agricultural sciences, GKVK Bengaluru, called for complete assessment of variability of small millets in the germplasm collection for better utilization in trait specific crop improvement.