Brief in Kenya

Up until 1930’s pearl millet was the main cereal crop grown in central, Eastern and the NFD areas.  It is estimated that two hundred thousand hectares were grown then. From then on pearl millet declined in area and attention caused by the decline in bird scaring labour to sorghum, maize and white settlers ‘cash crops. In the 1940’s the colonial government started research to develop native African food crops starting with sorghum and later with pearl millet.

Early millet research started with fertility and agronomic studies at serere Uganda. Later breeding for higher seed set and higher yields started. On breakup of the east African community in 1977 pearl breezing breeding gained momentum under L. M’raga now Dr. The breeding objectives have remained the same as before.

1.      Collection maintenance and conservation of local and exotic landraces

2.      Development of early maturing drought escaping varieties

3.      Development of drought tolerant varieties

4.      Enhancement of high yields and high grain set and sizes

5.      Enhancement of tolerance to diseases and pests high


Breeding methods


Pearl millet is almost 100% cross pollinated. Maintaining pure breeding varieties like sorghum was unconceivable until the recent advent of inbred limes and recombinant hybrids. Earlier open pollinated (OPV) varieties were synthetics. Synthesized by developing near true breeding populations that did not breed differently when mixed.



Constraints to millet production


  • Lack of improved high yielding disease/pests resistant/tolerant cultivars
  • Biotic and abiotic stresses: diseases, pests low soil fertility and inappropriate cropping systems and technologies
  • Low farmer awareness of improved technologies (varieties and production techniques)
  • Cultivation in small scattered plots leading to poor economies of scale in production and marketing
  •  Few value added products, low grain prices, low utilization
  • Limited application of improved farm inputs especially certified seed and fertilizers
  • Poor linkages in the producer, processor, distributor, consumer continuum

Millet Variety technologies available

Three improved pearl millet varieties have been develop at KALRO-AMRI Katumani.

1.KAT PM-1with 80% bristles to discourage bird damage

2. KAT PM-2with 20% bristles and robust bold grain size which are dense grey to meet need of certain niches. The panicles have a bare tip.


3. KAT PM-3with bold grain size, white (less grey grain) and higher grain yield.


Three Finger millet varieties have also been developed at KALRO-AMRI Katumani.

1.KAT FM FM-1 – it is a finger millet for the dryn areas, early maturing with short stems


2. KAT PRO- 1-Prosso millet is well adapted to many soil and climatic conditions; it has a short growing season, and needs little water.  The water requirement of proso is probably the lowest of any major cereal. It is an excellent crop for dry land and no-till farming.


3. KAT FOX-1: Foxtail millet is an annual grass with slim, vertical, leafy stems which can reach a height of 120–200 cm. It is an important millet crop in arid and semi-arid regions.




Agronomic technologies on plant populations, organic and inorganic fertilization are available (KALRO-sorghum and millet program)


Certified Seed and adaptation Services available at KALRO seed unit (KSU}. Other Services at the sorghum and millet programmes