Pearl millet: genome sequence published


An international consortium with participation of MOSYS team members Palak Chaturvedi, Arindam Ghatak and Wolfram Weckwerth has published the genome sequence of drought- and heat-tolerant Pearl millet. The MOSYS team further developed a molecular-physiological model to explain drought and heat tolerance.

Pearl millet resists temperatures up to 42°C, unlike wheat, rice or corn. The resilient plant will be especially important in the era of global climate change. But how is this dryland cereal able to survive soaring temperatures and exceptional drought?

Wolfram Weckwerth explains: "Plant diversity and adaptation to different climatic conditions—especially important in the era of global climate change—is synonymous for the concept of natural and genetic diversity. Research tackling this natural genetic variation and the corresponding biodiversity provides one of the largest treasures of mankind.

Exactly this genetic variation of plant families, plant genera and even within one plant species is the key to cope with global climate change and dramatic consequences for agriculture.

For the purpose of sustainable research, breeding and protecting genetic diversity especially of crop plants many public non-profit research organization have formed under the umbrella of CGIAR and are active in research and building non-profit biobanks. ICRISAT, coordinator of the pearl millet genome sequencing studies, is the Indian pendant of the famous CIMMYT which started in the 60-70ies to distribute disease resistant and high yield wheat varieties under the poor farmers in the developing countries."

He further says, "the first steps to elucidate molecular mechanisms in any organism from plants to animals to microbes is to sequence and analyze their genome, proteome and metabolome. Subsequently, we draw hypotheses from these data by integration, modelling and functional interpretation.

Based on our studies we developed first molecular-physiological hypotheses to explain drought and heat tolerance of this plant. This will have a strong impact in understanding and improving plant productivity in changing climate in the next decades."

Publication in "Nature Biotechnology"

Pearl millet genome sequence provides a resource to improve agronomic traits in arid environments. Nature Biotechnology, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3943

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A farmer with harvested Pearl millet. Image souce: ICRISAT