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Molecular Analysis of Abiotic Stress Tolerance in Finger Millet: Improving a Climate Resilient Crop for Food and Nutrition Security




This research is part of the project No. 2022/45/P/NZ2/04165 co-funded by the National Science Centre and the European Union Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 945339.

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Project Goal

The goal of this research project is to identify and document genomic resources for abiotic stress tolerance in diverse Ethiopian finger millet germplasm by using standard molecular techniques.
Abiotic stresses significantly reduce crop yields, and their negative impacts are further aggravated by climate change, which is expressed as variations in precipitation and temperature. There are various abiotic stress management strategies, but the development of tolerant varieties is the most sustainable approach since it is both economically and technically feasible and ecologically sound.

Reasons for Attempting the Topic

The global population, projected to surpass 9 billion by 2050, is increasing, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and Southern Asia. Agricultural production has to increase by 60%–70% to meet the food demand, which is predicted to increase by 59%–102%. However, an increase in crop production is hindered by different types of abiotic stresses. The negative impacts of these stresses are drastically worsened by climate change. Therefore, it is necessary to select and/or design proper crop ideotypes to increase global agricultural production and avoid food and nutrition insecurity.
Finger millet can be considered one of the ideal candidate crops in which a significant yield increase can be gained because of several reasons. Finger millet is adaptable to adverse environmental conditions; requires minimum inputs; and generally thrives on marginal land where other crops fail. Finger millet grain is gluten-free, rich in calcium, fiber and iron, has excellent malting qualities, with a low glycemic index, and because of these properties, finger millet is a choice food for diabetics. Regardless of its importance, little effort has been made to improve its productivity, particularly in terms of tolerance.
Because Ethiopia is the center of origin and diversity for finger millet and possesses extensive areas of agricultural land associated with abiotic stresses, valuable levels of stress tolerance genes might have evolved through strong selection pressure imposed by the abiotic stresses. 

Substantial Results Expected

We expect that the project will unravel the molecular mechanisms of abiotic stress tolerance in finger millet germplasm. Additional benefits of the project will be the development of molecular markers that would enable rapid screening of finger millet germplasm for tolerance so that the negative effects of abiotic stresses and the worsening impact of climate change on finger millet production will be alleviated. 
The genomic resources that will be generated by this project will be used by plant breeders to develop improved finger millet cultivars that can survive and provide high yields in areas affected by different types of abiotic stresses.