Genetic Enhancement of Pearl Millet for Yield, Biotic and Abiotic Stress Tolerance in West Africa (GENMIL)

Award Amount

$1,228,053 (2018 - 2023)

Research Team

Ndjido Kane                 Ghislain Kanfany
Nani Dramé                 Kassari Issoufou
Desalegn Serba           Safietou Fall
Prakash Gangashetty

U.S.A. collaborating institutions

Colorado State University
Kansas State University

International collaborating institutions

Niger - International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Niger (INRAN)
Senegal - Centre d’Etudes Régional pour l’Amélioration de l’Adaptation à la Sécheresse (CERAAS), Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA), Université de Thiès


Drought, disease, and insects are key constraints for millet production in West Africa. There is a recognized need for rapid advancement in the development of varieties addressing these constraints and taking into consideration farmer’s practices and market acceptability. This project aims to accelerate the development of a combination of pearl millet (PM) innovations to put into farmers’ hands that at finite will result in sustainable productivity enhancement of PM for food security and income generation.



The GENMIL project is modernizing INRAN and ISRA breeding program to deliver high-yielding pearl millet cultivars that tolerate drought, Striga and downy mildew in Niger and Senegal. Researchers are assisting with production with adapted and resilient farmers’ practices and crop management strategies and co-developing and up-scaling selected options of integrated genetic, natural resource management context to improve pearl millet production.


This project and research was funded by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet, known as the Sorghum and Millet Innovation Lab (SMIL). This lab is funded by USAID and managed at Kansas State University.

Project Description

GENMIL is compartmentalized to meet four specific objectives, relying on a series of activities and strategic criteria.
1. Modernizing INRAN and ISRA breeding program to deliver high-yielding PM cultivars that tolerate drought, Striga and downy mildew in Niger and Senegal.
2. Assisting production with adapted and resilient farmers’ practices and crop management strategies.
3. Co-developing and up-scaling selected options of integrated genetic, natural resource management context to improve PM production.
4. Empowering human and institutional capacities.

A first criterion is dialogue between scientists and farmers and back-and-forth with end-users for a high rate of adoption of pearl millet innovations. The activities consist of promoting adoption and advocating the uses and benefits of new pearl millet technologies, within an innovative platform gathering actors of the value chain (stakeholders, private sector, farmer’s organizations, extension services, and scientists). Genetic materials and information about germplasm, either available or being developed, are being shared between teams and research programs. Breeding Management System (BMS) is being used to standardize unique management and shared resources (plant materials and data). Germplasm is being evaluated in both Senegal and Niger. Inter-population improvement approach of reciprocal recurrent selection (RRS) method is being applied using selected populations to make use of both general and specific combining ability.

Recent phenotyping and genotyping approaches are being conducted to evaluate the germplasm and identify/validate major quantitative traits loci (QTLs) for tolerance to drought, resistance to major biotic stresses in Senegal and Niger (complementary and co-working). Farming practices coping with diseases or ecologically intensifying production is being added into the breeding product profile (co-conceptualization). All identified elite cultivars are integrated into local breeding programs (co-breeding) and evaluated on-farm for performance and farmer/market acceptability (scaling-up). Along with mentoring of early career research and continuous empowering of young trainees (PhD and MSc), farmers and seed producers are contributing to human and institutional capacity building needed to modernize sustainable PM breeding programs across the NARIs.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Ndjido Kane

Centre d’Etudes Régional pour l’Amélioration de l’Adaptation à la Sécheresse (CERAAS)
Thiès, Sénégal
Phone: +221 339514993
Email: [email protected]

Regional Impact

Niger - Niamey
Senegal – Bambey, Thiès

Country Coordinator

Dr. Ndjido Kane
Director and Coordinator

Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles du Senegal (ISRA)

Progress and Impact

Seeds of open-pollinated and hybrid pearl millet varieties have been produced, and progenies evaluated during the rainy season across 18 sites in Senegal and 5 locations in Niger. At least 160 farmers visited these plots in Senegal and identified panicle length, grain yield, stay green, and resistance to biotic stress such as striga, downy mildew and drought as the most important traits when selecting a pearl millet variety to grow in their field.

Based on agronomic performance and farmers’ appreciation, 3 open-pollinated varieties (SL 169, SL 423 and SL 28) and one hybrid (TAAW) have been proposed for release. Phenotyping of fixed and segregated pearl millet lines for striga, downy mildew, and roots-related traits occurred in Senegal and Niger. For Striga, the protocol allowed the breeding program to screen 200 inbred lines. New striga resistant lines were identified that can be used in the NARS pearl millet breeding program.

The Open Sim Root model already being used in maize has been calibrated for pearl millet through the implementation of some measured traits using Souna 3 variety. In addition, a protocol has been established for high-throughput field root phenotyping pipelines (Root architectural and anatomical phenotyping in pearl millet). For UAV high throughput phenotyping, the calibration during rainy season was validated. The BCNAM mapping population was advanced from BC1F1 to BC1F2. For population improvement, recurrent selection was applied to 3 OPVs. A total of 444 S3/F4 lines were derived from these different populations. Test crosses (275 inbred lines crossed with a CMS line) showed that only 13% of them were fertile F1 and can be considered as a true hybrid. Some of these promising hybrids are being grown in the field currently to confirm their fertility before their preliminary yield evaluation during the rainy season. Eight of them produced more than 2 t/ha.

May 26, 2022

Pairing U.S. and West African Institutions Leads to Accelerated Breeding Breakthroughs

Many West African staple dishes depend on sorghum and millet as crucial ingredients. However, the methods to prepare these dishes are laborious and preparation-heavy. The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet (SMIL) at Kansas State University, began a research project in 2013 to develop new products that are ready-to-prepare and fortified, easing the familial burden of meal preparation, which often falls to women.

Presentations and Publications