Read full article By Gregor Heard @ Queensland Country Life Photo Credit: Queensland Country Life
MILLET and sorghum are well known within Australian cropping circles, but primarily for their use as livestock feed.
However, the millet and sorghum family have been used as staple crops for humans for millennia and now researchers are investigating the many health benefits of the grain.
When combined with the hardiness of the millet family and its ability to tolerate both extreme hot and dry conditions it is no wonder researchers are recommending millet and sorghum to Australian farmers.
Australian millet specialist Joanna Kane-Potaka, who has worked at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi- Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, for the past nine years, has co-authored a report, published in Frontiers in Nutrition journal, about links between millet consumption and reduced risk of diabetes.
“There are some promising findings regarding eating millet, defined broadly in the study to also include sorghum, and reducing type 2 diabetes risk, while the millet has also been showing to manage blood glucose in people with diabetes,” Ms Kane-Potaka said.
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This study is the first in a series of studies that has been worked on for the last four years as a part of the Smart Food initiative led by ICRISAT that will be progressively released in 2021.
Australia’s DFAT selected Smart Food in the top ten global food innovations and funded the Smart Food initiative at ICRISAT, to test the markets for acceptance and nutritional benefits of millets and sorghum.
Ms Kane-Potaka said millet and sorghum both ticked the boxes as ‘smart foods’, which are good for people, the environment and farmers, and said she would like to see more people adopt millet as a staple in their diet.
She said people in sub-Saharan Africa and the subcontinent had long appreciated both the nutritional value and the agronomic reliability of the crops.
“They were the major source of calories for millions of people but in recent years there has been more focus on the big three of maize, rice and wheat,” she said.
“There has been a lot more investment in breeding of these big three crops, but in semi-arid regions they just might not be suitable.”
She said with concerns about climate variability, millet and sorghum could help provide growers with reliable options.
“Millets, including sorghum, have many advantages for Australia, being an option for farmers during a climate crisis as they are very hardy and able to grow in high temperatures with minimal water,” she said.
On the pricing front she said developing human consumption markets would help bolster returns.