Millets: Climate resilient future crops
Author: Smita N. Shingane

Millets in mitigation of climatic changes

Millets comprising of sorghum, pearl millet, and small millets namely finger millet, foxtail millet, kodo millet, proso millet, barnyard millet and little millet are grown in arid and semi-arid tracts of Asian, African under low rainfall where fine cereals cannot be grown profitably. Millets possess advantages such as early maturing, drought tolerance, require minimal purchased inputs and mostly free from biotic and abiotic stresses. The grains are rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. In addition they also possess special health benefitting properties desired by people suffering from life-style diseases like obesity, diabetes etc. Sorghum and pearl millet have BNI ability in root exudates which could play an important role in mitigating the impact of global warming by regulating the emission of N2O to atmosphere. Despite these advantages, millets are losing their importance in production and consumption in India due to several reasons. In recent years, there has been some efforts in production of millets due to climate changes impacts, water scarcity, increasing human population, rising prices of food etc. These impacts present a challenge before scientists and nutritionists to investigate the possibilities of producing, processing, and utilizing other potential food sources like millets to end hunger and malnutrition. In addition, millet crops are also excellent dual purpose fodder crops.

Crop production technologies to improve millets productivity

The lower productivity observed in small millets is because of its cultivation in marginal soils and non-adoption of improved agronomic practices. These crops have potential to respond well to improved agronomic practices such as application of small amount of fertilizers and other crop management inputs, timely sowing, of improved varieties, optimum spacing, and timely weeding and inter cultivation. Crop improvement strategies should be prioritized in all the millet growing regions to identify location specific crop production technologies. Moisture conservation techniques such as In situ moisture conservation can play major role in improving the crop productivity by harvesting the rain water and subsequently utilizing for crop production.

Processing and value addition for improving millets consumption

Millets are known for nutritional superiority the advantages are not been exploited on a commercial scale. Development and availability of appropriate processing technologies to prepare convenient and value added products from sorghum and millets have been one of the major limiting factor for diversified food uses. Improved technologies such as extrusion methods, vermicelli/noodles, pasta preparation methods, biscuits and other bakery preparation are available mostly in sorghum. These technological interventions to a greater extent can overcome the difficulties associated with traditional processing and consumption of millets. Shelf stability of the millet products should be improved and has to be given due priority. Processing technologies should take care while improving the consumer acceptance of millet foods the nutritional properties are retained intact.

Public private partnerships, policy recommendations to upscale the millet promotion

Continuous entrepreneurship development programmes need to formulated for the farmers and other stakeholders utilizing modern and innovative methods. These should be mainly focused on the micro entrepreneurs to motivate them for value addition, product development and marketing. The aspects like health and our cultural/social benefits adhered to millets should be considered by the policy makers. Inclusion of millets in Mid day meal programmes in schools, promoting industries for processing, assured support price for the millets are some of the urgently needed solutions for sustaining millets production ecologies.

About Author / Additional Info:
Dr. Smita N. Shingane has completed Ph.D. in (Genetics and Plant Breeding)