Gene Discovery and Advances in Finger Millet [Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn.] Genomics-An Important Nutri-Cereal of Future.

The rapid strides in molecular marker technologies followed by genomics, and next generation sequencing advancements in three major crops (rice, maize and wheat) of the world have given opportunities for their use in the orphan, but highly valuable future crops, including finger millet [Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn.]. Finger millet has many special agronomic and nutritional characteristics, which make it an indispensable crop in arid, semi-arid, hilly and tribal areas of India and Africa. The crop has proven its adaptability in harsh conditions and has shown resilience to climate change. The adaptability traits of finger millet have shown the advantage over major cereal grains under stress conditions, revealing it as a storehouse of important genomic resources for crop improvement. Although new technologies for genomic studies are now available, progress in identifying and tapping these important alleles or genes is lacking. RAPDs were the default choice for genetic diversity studies in the crop until the last decade, but the subsequent development of SSRs and comparative genomics paved the way for the marker assisted selection in finger millet. Resistance gene homologs from NBS-LRR region of finger millet for blast and sequence variants for nutritional traits from other cereals have been developed and used invariably. Population structure analysis studies exhibit 2-4 sub-populations in the finger millet gene pool with separate grouping of Indian and exotic genotypes. Recently, the omics technologies have been efficiently applied to understand the nutritional variation, drought tolerance and gene mining. Progress has also occurred with respect to transgenics development. This review presents the current biotechnological advancements along with research gaps and future perspective of genomic research in finger millet.

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