By: Rahul V Pisharody
City-based premier Central research institute, the Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR), is soon to be elevated to a one of its kind Indian Institute of Millet Research (IIMR).
A decision to this effect was taken recently by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR). With this, the Centre, which has been working towards crop improvement and technology advancement for sorghum, as well its supply, will aim and focus on creating a collective bargaining capacity for all millet crops, which scientists believe is essential for nutritional security of the country.
Telangana state which comprises largely drought-prone dry land areas is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of the research activities, but not without adequate policy support from the government for production, procurement, processing, promotion and consumption, says JV Patil, director, DSR.
“Our focus so far had been on sorghum research, but we realise that even basic research has been lacking in all millet crops. A proposal was sent to ICAR about two years ago, and now, IMAR will be set up in Hyderabad as an extension of DSR,” said Patil.
According to him, with additional infrastructural, including laboratories, fields, manpower and funds, nutritional and biochemical research studies could be conducted on all millets to develop IMAR as a hub of millet research in the country. “Just like our research work on plant breeding, entomology, pathology, physiology, biochemistry, agronomy and biotechnology of sorghum, we will work on eliminating anti-nutritional factors in millets,” he added.
In a freewheeling interaction with Express, Patil explains the importance and relevance of millet research, production and consumption, especially in the young state of Telangana. Excerpts:
Importance of millets research: Cultivable land is shrinking and population is rising. Telangana state, largely comprising dry lands, cannot ensure food or nutritional security if it continues to cultivate paddy and maize, as productivity is directly proportional to irrigation facilities or rainfall. There is no data available on land area under sorghum or millets cultivation. Generating the database is not our mandate. Our focus is on climate change and nutrition in people’s diet.
Why sorghum and millets: Millets are C4 crops which efficiently utilise carbon dioxide to increase productivity. They are drought tolerant and can survive high temperatures. They are gluten-free, high in calcium, iron, zinc and anti-oxidants and have high presence of dietary fibres, and above all, release carbohydrates in slower quantities. All of this makes them superior to rice.
DSR’s contribution:Preparation of delicacies out of sorghum is a cumbersome process. We have not only developed improvised techniques for sorghum value additions using which any of the rice products could be made using sorghum. Based on our research, Britannia sorghum nutri-cereal biscuits will soon hit the market. Our own brand “Eatrite” products like biscuits, flakes, vermicelli, pasta, noodles etc is available through different brand outlets. We even promote enterprises by giving our processing technology.
Creating a market: Earlier, policy support was nil and revenue from cultivation was minimal. If the government enhances procurement of millets and sets up processing facilities, apart from providing subsidies for cultivation, farmers will be motivated. The crop is also best suited for cattle fodder and could well be a form of state revenue if pursued. If the Britannia nutri-cereal biscuit is a hit among consumers, naturally there will be a demand for sorghum and we could sell them the grains.
Source: The New Indian Express