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Pearl millet cultivation zones in India

Published: 15th Sep, 2023


According to a new study, India’s core pearl millet or Bajra production zone has shifted to 18 districts spread across eastern Rajasthan and Haryana between 1998 and 2017.


About the study:

  • The study was conducted by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Indian Council of Agricultural ResearchAll India Coordinated Research Project on Pearl Millet (ICAR-AICRP).
  • It examined data from crop models and digital technology and suggested a revision of the Indian pearl millet Total Population Environments (TPE).
  • It also suggested that an increase in rainfall triggered by human-induced climate change has led to the pearl millet zone shifting.

Pearl Millet and Zone Distribution in India:

  • India classifies pearl millet cultivation zones based on rainfall patterns and soil types.
  • Zones are classified as;
    • The arid regions of Rajasthan, which receive less than 400 millimeters (mm) of rainfall, are categorized as Zone ‘A1’.
    • Semi-arid regions in north and central India, including southern Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh, which receive more than 400 mm of rainfall per year, form Zone ‘A’.
    • Semi-arid regions with heavy soils in southern India and central western India with over 400 mm of rainfall from Zone B.

International Year of Millets:

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United Nations haverecognized 2023 as International Year of Millets or IYM2023 for awareness about health and nutritional benefits of millets.

Key Findings of the study:

  • Sub-classifications: The paper revised ‘A’ into three subzones‘G’, ‘AE1’, and ‘AE2’.
    • Zone ‘G’ covers Gujarat while AE1 covers eastern Rajasthan and Haryana.
    • Zone ‘AE2’ covers 12 districts spread across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • ‘AE1’, which is now India’s core pearl millet production area with 39 percent production, saw an increase in production of 46 kilograms per hectare, owing to an increase in rainfall.
  • The researchers noted that technological investments in irrigation, fertilization and new varieties that favored intensified cultivation practices also led to an increase in the zone’s pearl millet production.
  • ‘AE2’ saw an average increase of 1,860 kg per hectare in bajra production between 1998 and 2017.
  • Shifting trends: The paper also noted that climate change is contributing to more rainfall in Zone ‘G’ covering seven districts in Gujarat.
    • This has led to farmers changing their cultivation patterns and switching from pearl millet to cash crops.

The Pearl Millet:

  • The three major millets cultivated in India are Jowar, Bajra, and Ragi.
  • Bajra is also known as the pearl millet.
  • Scientific name: Pennisetumglaucum
  • It is cultivated mainly in the semiarid tropics, almost exclusively by subsistence and small-scale commercial farmers.
  • Optimal temperature requirement: Pearl millet grows best at temperatures between 27 to 32 degrees Celsius (81 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Temperature Tolerance: Pearl millet is known for its ability to withstand high temperatures, even exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).


  • Pearl millet is gaining importance as a climate-resilient and health-promoting nutritious crop.
  • Recent evidence using microsatellites suggests the monophyletic origin of pearl millet and its further migration and secondary diversification leading to enormous diversity.

A Scientific update:

  • Genetic erosion of landraces has been evident in different pearl millet growing regions due to replacement with modern cultivars.
  • Large variability found in pearl millet germplasm has been conserved in several gene banks.
  • Toward enhancing the utilization of pearl millet germplasm, available subsets like core and minicore collections and reference sets should be extensively evaluated to identify trait-specific germplasm and develop genomic resources to associate sequence differences with trait variations.


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