Sorghum and other millets are very crucial to the world food economy because they contribute to household food security in many of the world’s poorest, most food-insecure regions. Sorghum is one of the most important cereal crops of India, cultivated in about 8 million hectares annually. Sorghum provides highly nutritious food, feed and fodder and has great potential for industrial use as bio-ethanol for fuel. As principal crop of dryland, it is popular with farmers due to assured grains and fodder yields for low-input cultivation, under harsh weather, especially in drought.
It gives me a great pleasure to announce that the Council (ICAR) has upgraded “Directorate of Sorghum Research” (IIMR) into “Indian Institute of Millets Research” (IIMR), through the integration of mandate and objectives of All-India Coordinated Research Projects on sorghum, pearl millet and small millets under one umbrella of IIMR. As usual, IIMR coordinates and facilitates sorghum research at national level through All India Coordinated Research Project on Sorghum (AICRP on Sorghum), and provides linkages with various national and international agencies. It is also pertinent to reveal here that Indian Institute of Millets Research received an ISO certification for the quality management system in research and development to improve productivity and profitability of sorghum.
IIMR’s utmost priority is ensuring global competitiveness of farming sorghum and other millets in India through enhanced grain production, quality seed production, value-addition and promotion of alternate uses such as health foods, feed, quality stover, green fodder and fuel (bio-ethanol). For this, the institutional mechanisms are in place, and in line with ICAR’s policy on protection of IPR and commercialization. Implementation of this policy creates a common platform with trade, industry and farmers for creating a cooperative and competitive environment for enhanced use of sorghum for food, feed and industrial products like bio-ethanol from sweet sorghum, potable alcohol from molded sorghum grain, and sorghum for poultry and animal feed, in addition to production of ethanol from ligno-cellulose is also envisaged. Licensing and commercialization of nationally developed sorghum cultivars and other technologies are on non-exclusive basis.
Our prime concern is also on developing forage hybrids with higher biomass, better digestibility and resistance to biotic stresses. Strengthening seed delivery systems, greater seed replacement rate, and strengthening of community-based services including seed production, input-supply and marketing support are expected to promote cultivation of sorghum, which in turn supports the cause of millions of dryland farmers livelihoods. On the other side, Rabi sorghum cultivation in recent times has become more remunerative. Research on drought tolerance is now focused on development of early maturing rabi sorghum varieties and identification of QTL for terminal drought tolerance traits.
Now-a-days, sorghum is becoming more popular as a health food, especially in urban areas. Sorghum grain has high fibre content, moderate digestibility and rich mineral content compared to other cereals such as rice and wheat. Hence, sorghum foods are recommended for diabetic and obese persons. Being free from gluten, sorghum is the ideal food for celiac patients. To create greater demand for millets, especially sorghum for foods, we are working through the INSIMP involving public-private partnership by creating value chains.
Sorghum and other millets will very soon find its appropriate place especially in the context of future challenges such as, global warming, scarce water supply, needs for new raw materials, and increasing health awareness among urban and rural public. In this circumstance, we need to reinforce our efforts in sorghum research by innovative research strategies and continue to develop cultivars and technologies suitable for specific end-uses.