Biotech Updates

Popular Pearl Millet Hybrid Improved through Genomics-Assisted Breeding

December 1, 2021

Improved GHB 538 in the field. Photo Source: Rakesh Srivastava, ICRISAT

Fifteen years after its first release, scientists at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) are helping the popular pearl millet hybrid, GHB 538, make a comeback in an improved version.

The new GHB 538, christened Maru Sona or desert gold in the local language, is equipped with the genes to fend off devastating downy mildew disease and was recently released for cultivation in India's Gujarat state. Compared to the original hybrid, Maru Sona shows high resistance to downy mildew disease (82.0%), an increase in grain (3.5%) and fodder (10.8%) yield, resistance to blast (28.6%) and rust (91.4%) diseases, as well as higher grain protein content (12.5%) while maintaining GHB 538's hallmark early flowering (44 days).

First released in 2004-05, GHB 538 was meant for rainy and post-rainy summer season cultivation in India's dry regions of Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Haryana states. It became popular quickly and was released in Gujarat for cultivation in 2006-07. However, it was overcome by downy mildew within five years of release and showed signs of susceptibility, warranting the need for improvement.

For more details, read the article in ICRISAT Happenings Newsletter.

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