Pearl millet is a staple cereal crop for around 90 million people in arid and semi-arid tropical regions of Asia and Africa. It is a significant source of dietary energy and nutritional security for poor farmers and consumers in several highly populated regions. 

Nutritional Benefit

Provides up to 80 percent of daily iron needs for women of reproductive age and children when eaten regularly 


Varieties Released to Date

Asia: 10 varieties 
Country: India 

Africa: 1 variety
Country: Niger

Total Households Growing (2021) 74,000 households

CGIAR Breeding Partner: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

Iron deficiency, which is widely prevalent in Asia and Africa, impairs children’s physical growth, mental development, and learning capacity. Anemia is often induced by iron deficiency, and when severe it can increase women’s risk of dying in childbirth. Pearl millet with elevated iron levels has been shown to improve iron status, cognitive performance, and reverse iron deficiency among iron-deficient schoolchildren who consumed iron pearl millet flat bread twice daily. 
 
HarvestPlus works in partnership with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to support National Agricultural Research partners and interested seed companies to breed, test, and release open-pollinated varieties (OPV) and hybrids of iron pearl millet in countries where pearl millet is a staple food. To date, 2 OPVs and 9 hybrids of pearl millet have been released in India and Niger.
 
We are currently supporting partners in India, and in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Uganda in Africa. 

Nutrition Information and Evidence

Baseline iron concentration in non-biofortified varieties: 47 mg/kg

100% target concentration of iron in iron-biofortified varieties: 77 mg/kg

Bioavailability of iron in iron-biofortified pearl millet: 8%

Key Nutrition Evidence:

Whole grain biofortified pearl millet flour and porridge contain enough iron to help combat iron deficiency.

Iron pearl millet meets the iron needs of young children when eaten as a staple food.

Eating iron pearl millet improves the iron status of adolescent children. It also increases their potential at school and in future work, by improving cognitive measures such as memory and attention.

HarvestPlus Varieties Released Database

Explore the database for details on all HarvestPlus-promoted iron pearl millet varieties that have been released by country.

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Biofortification Priority Index

View an interactive map developed by HarvestPlus to show where investments in iron pearl millet are likely to have the greatest impact on nutrition and health.

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Global Crop Map

This interactive map shows which types of biofortified crops are available or in testing around the world.

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