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Karnataka to breed climate change-resistant millets

Hyderabad, Feb 25, 2015, DHNS: 23:05 IST
The Karnataka government will soon launch a consortium to breed improved millets that can withstand prolonged heat and cold conditions, in its ongoing effort to increase productivity of highly nutritious crops. DH file photo
The Karnataka government will soon launch a consortium to breed improved millets that can withstand prolonged heat and cold conditions, in its ongoing effort to increase productivity of highly nutritious crops.

Minister of State for Agriculture, Krishna Byre Gowda, said the government would shortly sign an agreement with Icrisat and the Bengaluru-based National Centre for Biological Sciences to embark on this ambitious project.

He was addressing a press conference on Monday at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) here.

“This will be purely a genome-based breeding programme and not a project for producing genetically modified (GM) crops,” he said, adding that five millets except pearl millet will be taken up for breeding. The project, to be funded by the Karnataka government, will use molecular marker-assisted breeding (MAB) technology to improve plant traits on the basis of genotypic assays.

Launching a three-day annual review and planning workshop on ‘Bhoo Chetana: Enhancing capacity, reach and adoption through farmer friendly approach’, Byre Gowda said that yield enhancement of 20-66 per cent was expected from the dry land farmers of Karnataka after the implementation of Bhoo Chetana project with the help of Icrisat.

“At the farmer’s level, we have seen that the enhancement was only 8-10 per cent as the concept of soil testing still has to percolate into the farming community,” Byre Gowda explained, adding that farmers will get Rs 15 on an investment of Rs 3 after joining Bhoo Chetana.

The Karnataka government has further extended Bhoo Chetana by taking up Bhoo Chetana Plus where farmers are encouraged to take up a holistic approach to dry land agriculture with the help of eight different international agricultural organisations.

“The government of Karnataka has signed a memorandum of understanding with Icrisat to bridge the yield gap in rain-fed areas,” said B K Dharmarajan, director, agriculture.

“There is a need for partnership approach to achieve nutrition security not only in India but also in other countries of the world. Icrisat will concentrate on forming coalitions like the one with Karnataka so that small farmers who grow millets are empowered,” said Dr David Bergvinson, director general, Icrisat.

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