Genome of dry zone food stable pearl millet sequenced for first time

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).

File photo dated March 24, 2012 shows an Indian farmer displaying grains and seeds at the Millet Fest 2012 in Hyderabad. Millet, a cereal that nourishes the populations of the dry zones of the planet, had its genom sequenced for the first time, a step that should better adapt its culture to climate change, and “increase its improvement” said Yves Vigouroux, from the French Research Institute for Development. – AFP