PARIS (AFP) – Scientists said Monday they had unravelled the genetic code of pearl millet, the staple food of an estimated 100 million people living in some of the world’s driest areas.
Sequencing the genome will help the search for new varieties with higher yields and better resistance to climate change, they reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Wheat, corn and rice have been well studied, but relatively little is known about pearl millet, which has grown in Africa for 4,500 years. The small round cereal – Pennisetum glaucum, to give its scientific name – grows quickly even in poor soil and with very little water. It is likely to be highly solicited in areas where climate change will heighten water stress.
“Millet will perform much better than corn in the climate of the future,” said Yves Vigouroux, a geneticist with France’s Institute for Research Development (IRD).