Towards the Development of a Finger Millet (Elesine Coracana L. Gaertn) Breeding Programme in Zambia

  • Racheal Msikita
Keywords: Finger millet, Induced mutation, characters, traits, genotype, genetic, divergence and cluster.


Finger millet [Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn] is one of the potential cereals that can be used to mitigate climate resilience among the smallholder farmers who are the major growers. It has the capacity to adapt to extreme environmental conditions as well as growing under a wide range of wider agro ecology an advantage to other cereals, which can be capitalized in breeding. However, the breeding of finger millet in Zambia is constrained by the lack of knowledge on the genetic information, compared to other small grains cereal crops. Therefore, a study was conducted to assess the diversity of mutant lines in the six generation. A pure line selection from a landrace finger millet variety Mutubila was sourced from the Sorghum and Millet Breeding Program of the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) in 2013. Seed was divided into four lots of 1 kg and subjected to gamma ray mutagenic treatment at 0 (control), 100, and 150 and 200 at the National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research (NISIR) in Lusaka in 2014. An equal amount of Irradiated seed (First mutation generation) from each dose was planted in Mpulungu during the off season of 2013 in plots of 50m x 50m spacing 30cm intra row and 30cm intre rows. The second generation showed 99% plant survival with 0, 70% plant survival with 100, 10% plant survival with 150 and 0% plant survival with 200. Therefore, the subsequent segregating generations from 100 were used for selection. The mutant lines were selected from generations that were exposed to different culling rates as generations increased, after repeated selection 40 mutant lines were selected planted with six checks using an Alpha Lattice design with two replications and eight blocks, 48 genotypes were evaluated for agronomic performance. Results revealed that the mutant lines were diverse in number of productive tillers per plant, main ear length that ranged from: 3 to 15 and 4.4cenmetre to 14.5cenmtre respectively, while for number of fingers per earhead and grain yield ranged from: 3 to 17 and 0.58 to 2.5kilogram per hectare respectively. Productive number tillers, Finger length, straw weight, and number of fingers were strongly and positively correlated to grain yield (R2 > 0.67). There were X clusters, highest number of sub clusters was (11) in cluster I. Maximum inter-cluster distance was observed between clusters V and IV, V and VII, V and IX and VII and XI, indicating wider divergence among these clusters. Minimum inter-cluster distance was between II and III, VIII and X, I and VIII. Distant clusters indicated that genotype present in one cluster differed completely from the one in the other clusters, thus could be used for generating superior genotypes. The study showed that selecting for yield components as the mutants are advanced results in divergent lines which can be recombined to breeding high yielding and disease tolerant finger millet. We conclude therefore, that mutation breeding for Finger Millet can be used to generate diversity and divergent lines can be recombined to develop improved genotypes for commercialisation.


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How to Cite
Msikita R. Towards the Development of a Finger Millet (Elesine Coracana L. Gaertn) Breeding Programme in Zambia. University of Zambia Journal of Agricultural and Biomedical Sciences [Internet]. 5Dec.2023 [cited 25Jul.2024];7(2). Available from:
Agriculture Sciences