Millet research status and breeding program mes in Nepal
Prepared by Submitted to
Hari Prasad Paneru (32)
Rajan Poudel (14) Mr. Umanath Sharma
Neela poudel (41) Department of plant Science
Prakash Basnet(5) IAAS, Lamjung Campus
Umesh Sapkota (23)
Nabeen Raj Gyawali (50)
The millets are a group of highly variable small-
seeded grasses widely grown around the world as cereal
crops or grains for both human food and fodder.
It is an important staple food in parts of eastern and central
Africa, Indian and Northern hills of Nepal.
Millet is also the base ingredient for the distilled
liquor rakshi and the indigenous alcoholic drink of the
Sherpa, Tamang, Rai and Limbu people, tongba, in eastern
The millets include species in several genera, mostly in the
subfamily panicoidae, of the grass family. The exception, finger
millet, is in the subfamily chloridoideae. The most widely
cultivated species in order of worldwide production are:
Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) (Also known as bajra in India)
Foxtail millet (Setaria italic)
Proso millet, common millet, broom corn millet, hog millet or
white millet (Panicum miliaceum)
Finger millet (Eleusine coracana)
Millets (a group of small seeded species of cereal crops) leads
fifth position in production (33.94 million tons in 2007) and in
It is a fourth most important food crop in Nepal and a second
most important cereal crop of upland.
This crop shares 1.37% of AGDP. Among various species of
cultivated millets, finger millet is widely cultivated in Nepal.
The total area under millet cultivation in Nepal is 265889 ha and
production is 292683 Mt. Out of total millet area (2008/09) terai,
hill and mountain covers 3.78%, 76.13% and 20.09%
It is believed that Uganda or a neighboring region is the
centre of origin of Eleusine coracana (finger millet).
Mehra(1962) proposed E. coracana to be of African origin.
Originally millet is native to the Ethiopian highlands and
was introduced into India approximately 4000 years ago.
Zeven and Zhukovsky( 1975)proposed the centre of origin
of various millets as:
1.African region: pearl millet, finger millet
2.Chinese-Japanese region: Proso millet, foxtail millet
3.Hindustani region: little millet
Genetic studies of millets deals with the qualitative and quantitative traits such as
chlorophyll deficiencies, leaf characters, panicle characters, bristle characters and
Bajra; pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) is a diploid species (2n=14) with the
genome formula AA.
Napier grass (Pennisetum typhoides) is thought to be allotetraploid (2n=28 ) with
genome formula AABB. Inter-specific crosses of pearl millet with Napier grass have
been made in India and the U.S.A and selections from the crosses utilized as fodder.
Polyploid origin of Eleusine coracana is suggested since it has a chromosome number
of 2n=36 and the basic number of the genus Eleusine is 9. That the species is
polyploid is further indicated by possession of duplicate genes for inheritance of many
qualitative characters, such as purple pigmentation, grain color, sterility, pericarp
color, elongation of earheads, glume length and earheads shape.
Finger millet is tetraploid. E. coracana subsp. coracana and subsp. africana and E.
indica are identical, while the ct genome of E. tristachya differed consistently
The survey of ct genome concluded E. indica as one of the genome donors (maternal
genome donor) of domesticated finger millet. E. coracana subsp. Africana is
considered as the progenitor of domesticated finger millet.
High yield and stability:
Higher grain yield is the principal objective in breeding
millet. The yield of finger millet and pearl millet is
The production ability of finger millet is 4-5 ton/ha.
The selection of vigorous growth plant and high
tillering capacity meet this objective.
Similarly straw yield is also considered in improving
Finger millet may be grouped as early maturing (80-100
days) and mid-late maturing (100-120 days).
Improvement should normally be directed toward the early
and medium-late varieties.
Early maturity adapts finger millet to multicropping.
Two types of tillering can be found on finger millet, basal
and nodal tillering. High Basal tillering tends to result in
late maturity but uniform ripening, so selection for high
tillering capacity and early maturity in the same plant is not
Lodging resistance is attained by breeding for short,
stout stalks with good thickness of rind and freedom
from insects or diseases, damaging and weakening the
Strong, well developed root systems are also needed to
provide good anchorage into the soil.
The principal diseases of various millets are blast,
blight, smut, wilt, downy mildew, green ear and rust
whereas stem borer is important insect of fingermillet.
For improving the millet, it should be free from these
diseases and insect.
Longer bristles on Bajra offers considerable protection
to the crop against the damage of birds.
The bristles are hairy outgrowths at the base of spikelet.
Introduction of long bristles varieties offers the
improvement of pearl millet.
Finger millet is staple food in some parts of country.
Increasing protein content, seed/ grain size adds nutritive
value of millet which can be achieved through breeding.
S.No Variety Recommended
1 Okhle 1 2037 154-194 3.3 Mid and high
2 Dalle 1 2037 125-151 3.3 Terai inner
terai and mid
3 Kavre kodo 1 2047 167 2.3 900-1900
Introduction and germ plasm collections
The initial step in a breeding program is collection of as many as
indigenous and exotic stains.
After collection, it is studied carefully and classified systematically to
find the desired character.
Various strains of millets are introduced from many parts of world and
are collected at various research centers.
In most countries, the breeding work that has been done is germplasm
acquisition through local collections and international sources and
evaluation of the same to select adaptable varieties.
A number of plants are selected on the basis of their phenotype and the
open pollinated seeds from them is bulked together to raise the next
generation. This is called mass selection.
Many varieties of Bajra are reported to have been developed by single
plant selection. Selection of single plant in a cross pollinated crop results
in mild inbreeding and is sometimes followed by loss of vigor and yield.
Pure line selection to create homozygous inbred lined has been carried
out with pearl millet. The procedure is not different with that of maize.
Pollination must be controlled by bagging spikes to ensure that selfing
Both mass and pure line selection have been used in finger millet to
isolate improved strains from mixed local varieties.
Pedigree selection also helps to obtain a new variety with desirable genes
combination in finger millet.
There has been little hybridization breeding of finger millet in Asian
and African countries. In Uganda, hybridization was achieved through
hot water emasculation technique and use of male sterility .
Hybrid seeds may be produced in finger millet through use of
cytoplasmic male sterility, cytoplasmic genetic male sterility and
Finger millet is almost entirely self-pollinating and crosses between
different genotypes can be made only with difficulty. Genetic
improvement has been limited to pedigree-based selection, but the
possibility of male sterility discovered in Uganda enhancing cross
Besides these methods of breeding some others such as tissue culture,
somaclonal variations are also used for improving millets varieties.
Millets falls under underutilized food crop of Nepal.
Research works on millets were started before 1970s.
After the establishment of Nepal Hill Crop Improvement Program (NHCIP) in
1986, lots of activities were carried out. Germ plasm from other countries and local
landraces within a country were evaluated during that time.
Crossing was also started by NHCIP. A lot of crossing activities by NHCIP such as
disease resistance adaptation, yield adaptation, yield disease resistance were
also conducted to develop a variety.
research activities for the improvement of this crop are also being carried out and
are handled by different institutions/ organizations of related disciplines. NARC is
the leading organization mandated for carrying out research activities.
But very few activities are carried out in millet for its improvement in different
aspects such as yield, wider adaptability, blast resistance, days to maturity, plant
height, seed color etc.
Though millet is one of the major staple food crop for hill and
mountain region, but has poor productivity due to limited research
for improving the crop.
Being an important staple food, there is an urgent need to develop
high yielding lines resistance to disease, early maturing, higher straw
yield and stress tolerant.
Among the diseases reported blast appears to be the most serious
and devastating disease.
Through hybridization technique and suitable selection methods
development of new high yielding varieties of desired characters is
Because small floret size in small millets limits cross breeding. For
this study hot water emasculation method, use of gametocides along
with genetic male sterile system may help in developing hybrid