Regeneration of biological resources from the tropical BRC in Montpellier, France S. Vancoppenolle © CIRAD

Sorghum and millet

Thanks to their plasticity and wide range of forms (phenotypes), sorghum and millet can be integrated into many cropping systems in tropical and temperate zones. These cereals are vital food crops for vulnerable people in arid and semi-arid tropical regions. Their specificities in terms of adaptation to their environment and of their grain quality allow them to satisfy the particular requirements of such zones, while their capacity to provide numerous ecosystem services make them crops of the future. Some 20 CIRAD researchers are involved in research on these two species. Their work covers every aspect of the value chains, from designing sustainable, input-saving cropping systems to creating and disseminating new varieties better suited to current and future environmental constraints and market demand.

CIRAD is involved in international and national sorghum and millet research programmes


CIRAD's research fits into the following frameworks:


Our ambitions

  1. Make sorghum- and millet-based systems more productive and resilient by means of agroecological intensification.
  2. Improve grain and biomass collection, storage and processing techniques, in line with consumer demand.
  3. Build organizational capacity among stakeholders in the sorghum and millet value chains, to guarantee access to markets as a way of boosting incomes and food sovereignty.
  4. Organize and structure research networks and increase their interactions with development players to foster the emergence of appropriate innovations and more efficient transfers.


  • Advice on choosing varieties in line with objectives and production conditions
  • Advice on organizing and implementing participatory or non-participatory breeding programmes in partnership with producer groups
  • Advice on producing quality seed in tropical zones and establishing seed systems
  • Analyses of grain technological quality and composition
  • Analyses of the biochemical composition and food quality of straw
  • Analyses of stem anatomical diversity and optimization of biomass use to generate energy or develop materials.


CIRAD is working three main topics that - in addition to its biology and product technology expertise - make use of its capacity for human science and social science analyses to ensure that its work is contextualized and economically and socially relevant. In addition to those approaches focusing on production and product processing, CIRAD is also working to structure value chains, in the aim of helping to facilitate market access for producers and processors, to improve food security and social development.

Biodiversity and exploitation of genetic resources

  • Genetic resource management, analyses of gene diversity and flows
  • Characterizing suitable phenotypes (production, adaptation to abiotic stress, grain quality, biomass quality) in terms of production and its sustainability
  • Understanding the molecular and genetic determinism of characters
  • Forecasting the value of varieties in different environments
  • Functional validation of genes of interest
  • Optimizing breeding programmes
  • Seed production, including F1 hybrid seed
  • Developing seed systems

Boosting production

  • Identifying the factors that limit productivity: environmental constraints, pest pressure, cropping practices and socioeconomic context
  • Understanding and identifying technical levers on different levels of action: varieties, rotations and intercrops, including agroforestry, fertilization and biomass recycling, biocontrol and biostimulants, association with livestock production, mechanization
  • Pinpointing the most appropriate support tools: experimental structures involving researchers and producers, multi-player structures, innovation platforms
  • Multi-criteria assessment of production system performance
  • Using tools to forecast production levels resulting from different technical options and the impact of climate constraints and climate change scenarios.

Assessing product quality and optimizing processing techniques

  • Assessing grain and fodder quality
  • Identifying producers', processors' and consumers' requirements depending on the target markets and benefits
  • Optimizing processing techniques to produce food products for human consumption
  • Using imaging tools to optimize processing methods.