Thursday Seminar - The Millet Project
Date: 23 February, 2017
Time: 15:30 - 16:30
Venue: Main Building Lecture Room - G1
Coordinator: Prof. Jyotsna Vijapurkar
Title: The Millet Project
Speaker: Amrita Hazra, IISER, Pune,
Cereal grains go back a long way in human civilization. And what a variety we cultivated! Yet today, corn, wheat and rice comprise at least 89% of worldwide cereal production, in spite of the large variety of cereals traditionally available in different parts of the world. This, in turn, has caused losses in the variety of food and consequently nutrients in our diet, which together have adverse environmental and nutritional impacts.
In 2015, during the fourth year of the drought in the U.S., farmers in California were yet growing rice, corn and almonds – crops that are important to the U.S. agroeconomy but also require a lot of water for cultivation. The Millet Project was born around this time, out of an effort to diversify agriculture and our diet by the cultivation and consumption of lesser-known grains such as millets. Millets are a group of gluten-free cereal grains that are highly nutritious and commonly contain higher protein, mineral and vitamin and fiber levels, compared to corn, rice and wheat. Millets can grow with little water compared to most other grains, and are very well suited to drought-like conditions. They form grains in 90-110 days and are often cultivated on skeletal soils. Millet production is traditionally not dependent on the use of synthetic fertilizers and a majority of them are not affected by storage pests. Additionally, great natural biodiversity exists in millets, hence making them amenable to cultivation in various agro-climatic conditions. In this talk, Amrita Hazra will take you through the journey of how the Millet Project was born, what are its goals, what it has achieved and what are the goals for the future.
About the speaker:
Amrita Hazra is an Assistant Professor in Chemistry and Biology at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune since Dec 2015. For her Ph.D., Amrita studied the mechanistic enzymology of Vitamin B1 biosynthesis in prokaryotes with a Tri-Institutional Training Program in Chemical Biology fellowship at Cornell University. Her postdoctoral studies at the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of California Berkeley explored the biosynthesis of Vitamin B12 and other cobamides in the context of microbial interactions. Amrita’s graduate and postdoctoral research in vitamin biosynthesis drew her close attention to the nutritional aspect of food. The economic and political influences on agriculture concerns her greatly, as it leads to monoculture farming and limits the variety of food available to consumers. This has greatly shaped her ideas around food justice and sustainable agriculture, and she is excited to be a part of the Millet Project, which explores millets to diversify agriculture and our diets.
The focus of Amrita’s laboratory at IISER Pune is to explore the vast metabolic space and interactions that exists within biological systems, especially in and among microbes, using the tools of mechanistic enzymology, analytical chemistry, and genetics.