Genomic Designing of Pearl MilletA Resilient Crop for Arid and Semi-arid Environments

Authors Organisations
  • Desalegn Serba(Author)
    Kansas State University
  • Rattan Yadav(Author)
  • Rajeev K Varshney(Author)
    International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
  • S.K. Gupta(Author)
    International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
  • Govindraj Mahalingam(Author)
    International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
  • Rakesh Srivastava(Author)
    International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
  • Rajeev Gupta(Author)
    International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
  • Ramasamy Perumal(Author)
    Kensas State University
  • Tesfaye Tesso(Author)
    Kensas State University
Type Chapter
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGenomic design of Climate-Smart Cereal Crops
EditorsChittaranjan Kole
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages65
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-93381-8
ISBN (Print)978-3319933801, 3319933809
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2020
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Pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.; Syn. Cenchrus americanus (L.) Morrone] is the sixth most important cereal in the world. Today, pearl millet is grown on more than 30 million ha mainly in West and Central Africa and the Indian sub-continent as a staple food for more than 90 million people in agriculturally marginal areas. It is rich in proteins and minerals and has numerous health benefits such as being gluten-free and having slow-digesting starch. It is grown as a forage crop in temperate areas. It is drought and heat tolerant, and a climate-smart crop that can withstand unpredictable variability in climate. However, research on pearl millet improvement is lagging behind other major cereals mainly due to limited investment in terms of man and money power. So far breeding achievements include the development of cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS), maintenance counterparts (rf) system and nuclear fertility restoration genes (Rf) for hybrid breeding, dwarfing genes for reduced height, improved input responsiveness, photoperiod neutrality for short growing season, and resistance to important diseases. Further improvement of pearl millet for genetic yield potential, stress tolerance, and nutritional quality traits would enhance food and nutrition security for people living in agriculturally dissolute environments. Application of molecular technology in the pearl millet breeding program has a promise in enhancing the selection efficiency while shortening the lengthy phenotypic selection process ultimately improving the rate of genetic gains. Linkage analysis and genome-wide association studies based on different marker systems in detecting quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for important agronomic traits are well demonstrated. Genetic resources including wild relatives have been categorized into primary, secondary and tertiary gene pools based on the level of genetic barriers and ease of gene introgression into pearl millet. A draft on pearl millet whole genome sequence was recently published with an estimated 38,579 genes annotated to establish genomic-assisted breeding. Resequencing a large number of germplasm lines and several population genomic studies provided a valuable insight into population structure, genetic diversity and domestication history of the crop. Successful improvement in combination with modern genomic/genetic resources, tools and technologies and adoption of pearl millet will not only improve the resilience of global food system through on-farm diversification but also dietary intake which depends on diminishingly fewer crops.


  • biofortification, climate resilient, cytoplasmic male sterility, dwarfind gene, gene pool, genomic-assisted breeding, Pennisetum glaucum