HarvestPlus, part of the CGIAR Research Program Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), seeks to reduce hidden hunger—also known as micronutrient deficiencies—by breeding and deploying staple food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals. It develops such crops through a process called biofortification and partners with public and private sector organizations to disseminate these crops to farmers and consumers. In India, HarvestPlus is focusing on improving the iron and zinc status of households through pearl millet and wheat, respectively.
HarvestPlus’ key partner, Nirmal Seeds, began distributing iron-biofortified pearl millet seed in 2012. To date, the new variety has reached some 75,000 households in pearl millet growing states including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. Known locally as Dhanashakti, meaning prosperity and strength, iron pearl millet can provide children with their full daily iron—and zinc—needs and up to 60 percent of an adult’s requirements. In addition, Dhanashakti is high yielding, mildew resistant, and drought-tolerant. In 2014, the first hybrid-iron pearl millet variety, Shakti-1201, became available. It is as nutritious as Dhanashakti but even higher yielding.
HarvestPlus and partners are also working on high-zinc wheat, with three varieties already commercialized and more still being developed or undergoing testing. Nearly 6,000 farming households in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Uttrakhand received and planted seeds of two of the zinc wheat varieties for the first time in 2014.