Regeneration guidelines for pearl millet

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The information on this page was extracted from:
Upadhyaya H.D., Reddy K.N. and Sastry D.V.S.S.R. 2008. Regeneration guidelines: pearl millet.
In: Dulloo M.E., Thormann I., Jorge M.A. and Hanson J., editors. Crop specific regeneration guidelines [CD-ROM]. CGIAR System-wide Genetic Resource Programme, Rome, Italy. 9 pp.

Before reading the regeneration details for this crop, read the general introduction that gives general guidelines to follow by clicking here.


Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.), also known as bulrush or cattail millet, is an important grain and forage crop in Africa and South Asia and a forage crop in the Americas. It is mostly grown under hot, dry conditions on infertile soils of low water-holding capacity, where other crops generally fail. Pearl millet belongs to the family Poaceae, subfamily Panicoideae, tribe Paniceae, subtribe Panicinae, section Penicillaria and genus Pennisetum. The genus Pennisetum contains about 140 species. The important wild relatives of cultivated pearl millet include the progenitor, Pennisetum glaucum subsp. monodii Maire; P. purpureum K. Schumach.; P. pedicellatum Trin.; P. orientale Rich.; P. mezianum Leeke; and P. squamulatum Fresen. Previous names are P. typhoideum L.C. Rich. and P. americanum (L.) Leeke. The four cultivated forms of pearl millet are typhoides (found mainly in India and Africa), nnigritarum (dominant in eastern Sahel), globosum (dominant in the western Sahel) and leonis (dominant on the West African coast) (Brunken et al. 1977; Rai et al. 1997; Syngenta 2008).
Pearl millet is a C4 species and grows up to 5 m tall. It is allogamous and landraces are highly heterogeneous. Stigma emergence precedes anther emergence, resulting in high cross-pollination due to wind. Precautions are needed to preclude cross-pollination during regeneration and preserve the genetic integrity of germplasm accessions.

Choice of environment and planting season

Pearl millet growing in the field in Dubai, UAE.
(photo: ICBA)

Climatic conditions

Planting season

Preparation for regeneration

When to regenerate

Seed sample

Field selection and preparation

Method of regeneration


Being mostly allogamous, it is important to properly control cross-pollination by wind and insects to maintain the genetic integrity of individual accessions. Pollination during regeneration can be done in three different ways, namely through cluster bagging, sibbing and selfing. Cluster bagging and sibbing are used for regenerating landraces.
Either method can be used based on the resources and level of genetic integrity which is aimed for. Cluster bagging tends to be more easily implemented and less expensive but has a higher risk of reducing genetic integrity, while sibbing is more labour intensive but can achieve a higher genetic integrity. The sibbing method is followed to maintain male sterile lines (Rao and Bramel 2000). Selfing is principally used to regenerate inbred genetic stocks.

Cluster bagging:

Bagging panicles during pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) regeneration. (photo: ICRISAT)



Planting layout, density and distance

Planting method


Crop management

Weed management




Common pests and diseases

Arrange for pathologists and entomologists to visit the field to identify pests and diseases and their control. Major pests and diseases of pearl millet include:

Pest and disease control


Post-harvest management

Monitoring accession identity

Regeneration of wild species

Documentation of information during regeneration

The following information should be collected during regeneration:

References and further reading

Andrews DJ, Rajewski JF, Kumar KA. 1993. Pearl millet: New feed grain crop. In: Janick J, Simon JE, editors. New Crops. John Wiley & Sons, Inc, New York, USA. pp. 198–208. Available from: Date accessed: 3 October 2008.

Bidinger FR, Rai KN. 1989. Photoperiodic response of paternal lines and F1 hybrids in pearl millet. Indian Journal of Genetics and Plant Breeding 49:257–264.

Bioversity International, ICRISAT, USDA-NPGS, AICR. 2010. Key access and utilization descriptors for pearl millet genetic resources. Bioversity International, Rome, Italy; International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, India; United States Department of Agriculture National Plant Germplasm System, USA; All India Coordinated Research Project on Pearl Millet, India. Available here.

Brunken JN, de Wet JMJ, Harlan JR. 1977. The morphology and domestication of pearl millet. Economic Botany 31:163–174.

Rai KN, Appa Rao S, Reddy KN. 1997. Pearl millet. In: Fuccillo D, Sears L, Stapleton P, editors. Biodiversity in Trust. Conservation and use of plant genetic Resources in CGIAR Centers. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. pp. 243–258.

Rao NK, Bramel PJ. 2000. Manual of genebank operations and procedures. Technical Manual no. 6. ICRISAT, Patancheru, India.

Syngenta. 2008. What is pearl millet? Available from: Date accessed 3 October 2008.


These guidelines have been peer reviewed by Kameswara Rao, International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), Dubai, UAE.

The Genebanks

The 11 CGIAR genebanks currently conserve 730,000 of cereals and grain legumes, forage crops, tree species, root and tuber crops, bananas and crop wild relatives.