Faculty of Biological Sciences

Research Bulletin

Millets make an IMPACT

29th May 2012

Faculty researchers investigate ways to improve the future for this drought-hardy, nutritious crop.

Millets make an IMPACTtitle=Millets are one of the most drought tolerant crop plants and are staple crops of many of the poorest people in the semi-arid tropics of Asia and Africa.

Through a European Union Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship to Dr Antony Ceasar Stanislaus a new project 'Improved Millets for Phosphate ACquisition and Transport' investigating the acquisition and transport of the key nutrient phosphorus in millets has been initiated in collaboration with Prof Alison Baker and Prof Steve Baldwin in the Faculty of Biological Sciences.

The semi-arid tropics are characterized by unpredictable weather, limited and erratic rainfall and nutrient-poor soils. Millets can be cultivated far more economically in these environments than wheat, maize and barley.

The grains of small millets are nutritionally superior to rice and wheat and provide cheap proteins, minerals vitamins and micronutrients to the poor where the need for such ingredients is the maximum. The nutritional quality of millets makes them suitable for large scale utilization in the manufacture of baby foods, snack foods, dietary food, etc. from both grain and flour form. Millet grains also contain substantial levels of a wide range of phenolic compounds with health promoting properties, particularly antioxidant activities; millets are also used as nutraceuticals and in functional foods. Millets are the most drought-tolerant cereal grain crops and require little input during growth, but, as with other crops, yield better with good husbandry.

An adequate supply of phosphorus which is taken up as inorganic phosphate (Pi) is essential for optimal plant growth. Global reserves of cheap rock phosphate are finite and the price of Pi fertiliser increased 800% between 2006 and 2008, putting it out of the reach of many smallholder farmers.

Conversely, retention of much of the Pi applied as fertilizer leads to phosphorus loading of agricultural soils and subsequent run-off from arable land is a major cause of eutrophication and hypoxia in freshwater and coastal environments. Better understanding of mechanisms of Pi acquisition and use can thus potentially make an enormous contribution to agriculture, via production of crop varieties that have better Pi use effectiveness (same yield with lower external inputs / better yield in Pi-limited soil).

As 'orphan' crops grown largely in less developed countries, there has been little work on developing improved millet varieties. This project will help to understand the molecular mechanisms of phosphate utilization and transport for the improvement of this and other related groups of plants. With increasing world population and decreasing water supplies, millets represent important crops for future human use both in the tropics and in Europe.


Recent Grants

Dave Westhead and colleagues in Experimental Haematology, Cancer Research UK (Jan 2015), £700,521

Sheena Radford, Mark Harris, Peter Stockley, Alan Berry, Alex O'Neill, Thomas Edwards, Adrian Goldman, Anastasia Zhuravleva, Wellcome Trust (Jan 2015), £443,015

Bill Kunin, EU (Jan 2015), £157,490

John Colyer, Leeds Teaching Hospitals Charitable Fund (Jan 2015), £40,000

Chris Hassall, Royal Society (Dec 2014), £14,500

Ryan Seipke, Royal Society (Nov 2014), £13,700

Alan Berry, Wellcome Trust (Oct 2014), £749,865

Ian Hope, Marie-Anne Shaw, BBSRC (Oct 2014), £396,565

Alison Ashcroft, Peter Stckley, Sheena Radford, Nic Stonehouse, David Brockwell, Darren Tomlinson, BBSRC (Oct 2014), £340,937

Les Firbank, Joe Holden, BBSRC (Oct 2014), £210,302

Darren Tomlinson and colleagues in Chemistry and Pathology, anatomy and Tumour Biology, Dr Hadwen Trusy (Oct 2014), £194,475

Paul Knox, EU (Oct 2014), £167,229

Martin Stacey and colleagues in Medicine & Health, Pfizer (Oct 2014), £90,453

Darren Tomlinson and colleagues in Experimental Oncology, YCR (Oct 2014), £69,480

Andrew Macdonald, Jamel Mankouri, Kidney Research Fund UK (Oct 2014), £58,878

Mike McPherson and colleagues in Dentistry and Engineering, Wellcome Trust (Oct 2014), £58,437

Dave Westhead and colleagues in Experimental Haemotology, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research (Sep 2014), £281,424

Emmanuel Paci and colleagues in Chemistry, BBSRC (Sep 2014), £636,759

Andrew Peel, BBSRC (Sep 2014), £371,598

Lars Jeuken, Stephen Evans, BBSRC (Sep 2014), £333,684

Lars Jeuken, BBSRC (Sep 2014), £313,463

Michelle Peckham, Mark Harris, Rao Sivaprasadarao, Eileen Ingham, Nic Stonehouse, Nikita Gamper, Wellcome Trust (Sep 2014), £192,763

Neil Ranson, BBSRC (Aug 2014), £355,253

Stuart Egginton, BHF (Aug 2014), £271,094

Darren Tomlinson, Mike McPherson, Technology Strategy Board (Aug 2014), £98,665

Peter Henderson, Leverhulme Trust (Aug 2014), £15,222

Mike McPherson (and colleagues in the School of Chemistry), EPSRC (Jul 2014), £819,880

Peter Stockley, Neil Ranson, BBSRC (Jul 2014), £455,787

Sheena Radford, Univesity of Michigan (Jul 2014), £138,452

Ryan Seipke, British Society Antimicrobial Chemistry (Jun 2014), £11,960

John Trinick, BHF (Jun 2014), £222,614

Chris West, Leverhulme Trust (Jun 2014), £181,241

Jon Lippiat, Darren Tomlinson, BBSRC (May 2014), £125,174

Christine Foyer, Royal Society (May 2014), £24,000

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