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Genetic variation and diversity for grain iron, zinc, protein and agronomic traits in advanced breeding lines of pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.] for biofortification breeding

Abstract

Genetic improvements of iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) content in pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.] may reduce the problems of anemia and stunted growth among millet dependent staple food consumers. The availability of variation in diverse-breeding lines is essential to improve grain micronutrients in high-yielding cultivars. This study aimed to determine the extent of variability, heritability and diversity for grain Fe, Zn and protein, along with key agronomic traits, in 281 advanced breeding lines bred at ICRISAT and evaluated across two seasons (environments). A pooled analysis of variance displayed significant variation for all these traits. Highest variability was recorded for Fe (35–116 mg kg−1), Zn (21–80 mg kg−1), and protein (6–18%), and a three-fold variation was observed for panicle length, panicle girth and 1000-grain-weight (TGW). Diversity analysis showed 10 clusters. Cluster-III had maximum lines (25%) and Cluster-V showed the highest mean values for Fe, Zn, protein and TGW. These results highlight the success of breeding program that aimed both the maintenance and creation of genetic variability and diversity. A significant positive correlation among Fe, Zn, protein and TGW indicated the potential for simultaneous improvement. Grain yield had a non-significant association with Fe and Zn, while protein showed a negative correlation. These results suggest that significant variability exists in elite-breeding lines, thus highlighting an opportunity to breed for biofortified varieties without compromising on the grain yield. The lines with high Fe, Zn and protein content can be used as hybrid parents and may also help in further genetic investigations.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by funding from HarvestPlus Challenge Program of the CGIAR. It was carried as part of the CRP on Agriculture for Nutrition.

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Conceptualization of research (MG); Design of the experiments (MG, SG, MP); Contribution of experimental materials (MG); Execution of field/lab experiments and data collection (MP, HS); Analysis of data and interpretation (MP, AK, MG); Preparation of the manuscript (MP, MG, AK, SG).

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Correspondence to Mahalingam Govindaraj.

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Pujar, M., Govindaraj, M., Gangaprasad, S. et al. Genetic variation and diversity for grain iron, zinc, protein and agronomic traits in advanced breeding lines of pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.] for biofortification breeding. Genet Resour Crop Evol 67, 2009–2022 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10722-020-00956-x

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Keywords

  • Variability
  • Correlation
  • Diversity
  • Grain iron and zinc
  • Grain protein
  • Seed parent
  • Restorer parent