Addressing hidden hunger in developing countries: Study probes millet genetic information

Addressing hidden hunger in developing countries

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Millet, the grain, is having a moment. The United Nations declared 2023 as the International Year of the Nation. And last September, leaders at the G20 Summit in India were treated to a smorgasbord of dishes and desserts all made from millet.

It’s easy to see why millet is getting so much love lately. It’s more nutritious than grains like rice, wheat, and corn, it’s easier to grow—requiring less fertilizer and water—and it’s more tolerant of the drought conditions that are becoming more common around the globe.

Now researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – along with partners in India – have developed a deeper understanding of what makes millet such a wonderful food. Using the Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan—and the Advanced Photon Source near Chicago, Illinois—Dr. Raju Soolanayakanahally and colleagues looked at what the millet’s genes are doing at different stages — from when it first germinates to when it makes seeds. For example, they identified the genes responsible for capturing and transporting nutrients within millet seeds.

By comparing this new data with genetic information from other grains, researchers now have a better understanding of why millet is so efficient at taking up micronutrients from the soil. This new knowledge can be applied to developing better forms of other crops such as barley and wheat.

The team, which included scientists from the University of Agricultural Sciences (Bangalore, India) and the All India Coordinated Research Project on Minor Millets, was also able to see exactly where the minerals are located within the millet seeds, information critical to providing that processing. of grain does not remove valuable nutrients. Their findings were recently published in Journal of plants.

“As a physiologist, I was very interested in how these neglected crops take iron, zinc, manganese from the soil and sequester everything in the grain to make it one of the most nutrient-dense grain crops,” says Soolanayakanahally, who grew up. in Karnataka, India – where millet was the most sustainable local food source. “Understanding that pathway, understanding what genes were involved, what molecular mechanisms were involved, was fascinating.”

Millets are often referred to as nutritious grains because they provide most of the nutrients our bodies need to function. They are a great source of protein, fiber, iron, zinc and essential amino acids. Millet has 10 times more calcium than wheat and has more iron and zinc, says Soolanayakanahally.

Millet, he says, could play an important role in addressing the “hidden hunger” that prevails in developing countries, where other grains are plentiful but often lack the nutrients to treat major health problems like anemia. in infants and children.

“Lactating women can include millet in their diet,” says Soolanayakanahally. With climate change altering growing conditions, Soolanayakanahally thinks this country can play a bigger role in addressing food security.

“If we (get to a point where) we can’t grow durum wheat or barley and replace those areas with growing millet, then Canada can be one of the sustainable suppliers of high-nutrient grains to the world.”

More information:
Shankar Pahari et al, Atlas of Nutricereal tissue-specific transcription during development: Functional integration of gene expression to identify mineral uptake pathways in millet (Panicum sumatrense), Journal of plants (2024). DOI: 10.1111/tpj.16749

Provided by Canadian Light Source

citation: Addressing hidden hunger in developing countries: Study probes millet genetic information (2024, May 23) retrieved May 24, 2024 from -millet.html

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