Pearl Millet’s “Digital Twin” calls for a course correction on the popular millet

It seems that pearl millet, one of the oldest crops in the world and the most popular of the millets, needs a quick adjustment of the cultivation area. Pearl Hirss Ecology’s “digital twin” has published a India Action Plan that includes the why and how of the necessary changes. 

 A team of researchers commissioned by the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) mapped the country’s pearl millet growing areas  and assessed various parameters related to pearl millet cultivation and cultivation. proposed changes  to protect the output. The group includes researchers from institutes such as ICRISAT (India), Leibniz Center for Agricultural Landscape Research (Germany), Institut de Recherche Pour le Développement (France), All India Coordinated Pearl Millet Research Project  (India). This research was funded by a collaboration between ICAR, ICRISAT, the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Czech University of Agriculture in Prague and the Crops to End Hunger initiative.  They developed a “digital twin” by collecting historical weather data, yield and other agronomic data to simulate  pearl millet crop status in the digital arena. This digital twin helps design crops and strategies adapted to the current and future climate conditions of each region. (A digital twin is a virtual image of a physical thing, space, or person. It mimics a real counterpart, allowing researchers to estimate, test, monitor, and visualize future growth patterns. This helps save costs and reduce effort.) 

 A new study by ICRISAT and the All India Coordinated Pearl Millet Research Project  (ICAR-AICRP) suggests a reassessment of how and where pearl millet is grown in India due to changing climatic conditions. They used data from ICRISAT’s District Level Database (DLD) to carefully re-examine the entire system. 

 Changing weather patterns 

  Against the background of changing climatic conditions and shifting  agricultural priorities, this study calls for a timely revision of the  pearl millet cultivation classification criteria originally established  in 1979. The data show an increase in rainfall during the kharif season, leading to a quiet but significant change in pearl millet growth. cultivation miliareo suffered in some geographical areas. “With climate change now a persistent reality, it is imperative to recalibrate our approach to understanding and managing this important crop for dryland communities. This new classification system aims to optimize pearl millet production,  effectively helping policymakers, researchers and farmers make better evidence-based decisions,” said Jacqueline Hughes, director general of ICRISAT. “This collaboration with ICRISAT has resulted in innovative tools that can significantly improve pearl millet cultivation, including the selection of new trial sites,” said Tara Satyavathi, Director, ICAR-India Millet Research Institute  and  Pearl Millet Coordinator, ICAR-AICRP. 

 Suggested changes 

 Currently, India is classified based on rainfall and soil type  A1 for the arid regions of Rajasthan, A for the semi-arid regions of North and Central India, and B for the semi-arid regions of South India with heavy soils. The proposed changes indicate that Zone A should be re-evaluated, taking into account changing climatic conditions. The proposed new zones take into account the complexities of the system of changing climatic conditions. Although the current zoning of A1 and B zones is  still valid, there is a proposal to change the A zone,” said the researchers. “The current A zone can be divided into three different sub-zones: G, AE1 and AE2, which cover the states of North and Central India.  G zone covers Gujarat, AE1 covers eastern Rajasthan and Haryana and AE2 covers Uttar Pradesh ,” said. ICRISAT scientist Dr. Vincent Garin. The new zoning framework identifies AE1 as the core of  pearl millet production in India, where favorable climate and soil conditions and improved pearl millet varieties have led to significant yield increases. “AE2” shows promising yield development and improved cultivation practices that offer the potential for export-oriented profits Zone G will experience more rainfall due to climate change, which may force farmers to switch to cash crops and limit pearl millet cultivation during the summer season. 

Pearl Millet area

  The researchers proposed a new characterization of the pearl millet production environment using the latest available regional-level data (1998-2017), principal component analysis and large-scale crop model simulations. The eastern part of the country (Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh) is the only region where pearl millet cultivation has increased. The decline in pearl millet cultivation in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka is probably due to an economically driven shift to other more profitable crops such as cotton or maize. A possible increase in precipitation may also accelerate this change. In India, pearl millet is grown mostly during the rainy season (kharif), accounting for 92 percent of the annual cultivated area between 1998 and 2017. Because of its ability to use water efficiently and tolerate heat, pearl millet has adapted to harsh climates where other crops do not produce economic returns. “However, despite continuous growth across the production area (average 1161 kg/ha from 1998 to 2017), pearl millet yield remains low compared to other crops in the same regions,” the paper states. “Limited marketing opportunities and low government support are significant constraints for farmers considering pearl millet cultivation,”

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