Millets as Nutre Cereals
Keywords:Millets, Underutilized crop, Nutri cereal, God owns crop, wonder grain, Agronomy, Horticulture
Among the growing population (136.64 crs as per2019) many people experience scarcity of food and all. In the 2020 Global Hunger Index, India ranks 94th out of the 107 countries with sufficient data to calculate 2020 GHI scores. With a score of 27.2, India has a level of hunger that is serious (www.un.org/). The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that the on-going COVID-19 pandemic will increase this number as developing countries are double-hit by disease and hunger (www.fao.org/2019-ncov/q-and-a/) Disruptions in global supply chains, economic consequences (i.e., loss of jobs and incomes), the ban on the export of agricultural commodities, and price increases are the major reasons for this crisis. Although much attention is being given to the development of vaccines, therapeutic molecules, and preventive measures to combat COVID-19, the invisible threat to the lives and livelihoods of marginal populations through hunger and malnutrition remains largely unaddressed. The focus of the 2019 Global hunger index on ‘The Challenge of Hunger and Climate Change’ underlines the impacts of changing climates on agriculture that include crop failures owing to problems such as seasonal fluctuations, increased insect and pest attacks, and broad-spectrum infection by potential pathogens (www.globalhungerindex.org/).Supplying food grains is an immediate measure to aid the affected population, whereas devising long-term plans to prevent such challenges is the need of the hour. That said, the possibility of a second and third wave of COVID-19 in the near future should not be ignored. In such a case, the UN World Food Programme predicts (UN-WFP; https://insight.wfp.org/) that death due to lack of food would outnumber deaths caused by disease infection. The importance of crop diversity and of mainstreaming underutilized crops that could serve as functional foods has been pointed out before; however, identifying the best candidates of underutilized crops and deploying crop improvement strategies to release better varieties is still in a nascent stage. Mayes et al. Other plant species, including tubers, legumes, and leafy vegetables, also fall within the criteria of underutilized species; however, emphasis is given to small millets because they are capable of reducing the overdependence on major cereals. Three major cereals, namely rice, wheat, and maize, cater for up to 60% of the global food requirements, and this is one of the plausible causes of food and nutritional inadequacies in the hunger hotspots where these crops are largely imported for consumption. Millets, although cultivated marginally in those regions, have the potential to address these inadequacies if their area of cultivation is increased and crop improvement strategies are devised and deployed.
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