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Biofortification in Pearl Millet: From Conception to Dissemination

  • Alphonse Vinoth
  • Ramalingam RavindhranEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Concepts and Strategies in Plant Sciences book series (CSPS)

Abstract

Biofortification is an economical and sustainable process of delivering essential micronutrients through staple crops. The biofortified crops developed by HarvestPlus through conventional breeding continue to reach the target populations of Asia and Africa in order to reduce the burden of iron, zinc and vitamin A deficiency. Pearl millet, a dryland crop of the arid and semi-arid tropics is a suitable crop for iron biofortification as it harbours sufficient genetic variability for grain iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) in the existing germplasm. Zn is highly correlated with grain Fe and therefore enhanced as an associated trait during the breeding for high-iron pearl millet. ICTP 8203 Fe-10-2, an iron-biofortified pearl millet (Fe-PM) variety developed via intra-population improvement of iniadi germplasm, was commercially released for cultivation in Maharashtra, India, by 2014. Efficacy trials undertaken in women and children feeding on Fe-PM meals revealed an enhancement in their micronutrient status as well as their functional outcomes. Disbursement of Fe-PM through public–private seed markets worked out to be cost-effective. Farmers readily adopted Fe-PM for cultivation based on its superior agronomic performance rather than the preference for consumer attributes. On the other hand, consumers expressed their willingness to pay for Fe-PM over regular pearl millet because of its favourable sensory characteristics. Therefore, investment on high-Fe hybrids would bridge the gap between the farmers and consumers acceptance of biofortified millets. Iron biofortification is also limited by the presence of antinutrients like phytates and polyphenols as they hinder the Fe bioavailability. The development of biofortified crops with reduced antinutrients needs careful evaluation as they have a significant role in protection against diseases and seedling growth. This review paper deliberately describes the success of high-Fe pearl millet in India and the lessons to be learnt for expanding the biofortification efforts to other small millets.

Keywords

Biofortification Iron deficiency HarvestPlus Pearl millet Conventional breeding ICRISAT Dhanshakti Seed distribution system 

Abbreviations

AAS

Atomic absorption spectroscopy

CGIAR

Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research

DALY

Disability-adjusted life year

EAR

Estimated average requirement

EEG

Electroencephalography

Fe

Iron

Fe-PM

Iron-biofortified pearl millet

G × E

Genotype-by-environment

Hb

Haemoglobin

ICP-OES

Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy

ICRISAT

International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics

Lpa

Low-phytate mutants

NSSO

National Sample Survey Office

OPV

Open-pollinated variety

PA

Phytic acid

SAU

State Agricultural University

UNICEF

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund

XRF

X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy

Zn

Zinc

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge with sincere thanks the financial support received from Loyola College–Times of India Major Research Project Scheme (Project approval code: 4LCTOI14PBB001) and University Grants Commission, New Delhi Research Award Scheme (F.30-1/2014/RA-2014-16-GE-TAM-5825 SA-II), for their research on millet biofortification.

Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that the manuscript was written in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BotanySt. Xavier’s College (Autonomous)PalayamkottaiIndia
  2. 2.T.A.L. Samy Unit for Plant Tissue Culture and Molecular Biology, Department of Plant Biology and BiotechnologyLoyola College (Autonomous)ChennaiIndia

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