Dryland cereals are important sources of carbohydrates, protein, fiber, calcium, iron, and certain vitamin B complexes for thehouseholds that are the most dependent on these crops.
Barley, pearl millet and sorghum are inherently higher in iron and zinc than other cereals.
Recently pearl millet varieties that stretch well beyond current levels of 47 parts per million iron in the grain to about 70 parts per million were identified. Pearl millet and sorghum are also reasonably good sources of protein and fat – and thus aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins by the gut. Pearl millet and sorghum are gluten-free, and like barley have low glycemic indices (i.e. are slow to release glucose into the blood, aiding in the management of diabetes).
In urban areas, interest is increasing in the health benefits of barley. Barley beta-glucans lower blood cholesterol. Barley reduces the rate at which glucose is released to the blood, so it is valuable for Type II diabetics. Barley is a also rich source of tocols, which reduce serum LDL cholesterol through their antioxidant action.
Finger millet has high levels of iron and fiber and exceptionally high levels of calcium. It also has high energy density, making it ideal for pregnant and nursing mothers, in addition to being a weaning food for young children. It is also used as a therapeutic food in programs for diabetics and people who cannot tolerate gluten.
While breeding for increased yield, Dryland Cereals is vigilant to at least maintain – and where possible, to further increase – the micronutrient content of dryland cereal grains. Dryland Cereals also improves the nutritional value of stover and straw, improving the health of the livestock that are so vital to dryland livelihoods.