Bajra Pennisetum americanum ( Burn) is an important cereal crop of Maharashtra state and is grown on 18.47 lakh hectares with 10.87 lakh tones of grain production . In arid and semiarid areas wherever bajra is grown, it also contributes sizably in meeting fodder need of livestock. It has multiple uses besides being a staple food; its fodder is an important feed of the milch animals. Bajra is therefore of permanent importance for food and fodder security in the state. The average yield has gone up normally three times due to continuous efforts made for maximizing the yield during last two decades.
From the earlier years this disease, many hybrids/ varieties have been evaluated and a being cultivated on large area. However, among the various constrains in production of bajra, the incidence of disease especially ergot poses serious problems, which cause drastic reduction of average yield of bajra. The disease has been known for a long time. The disease assumes special importance because grain is easily contaminated by grain replacing sclerotia which contain alkaloids that affect the health of human being and animals.
Due to serious problems of ergot disease during 1950 to 1980, in view of its severity, initially the bajra screening for ergot resistance was started at College of Agriculture, Pune in year 1963.The research was mainly focused on ergot pathogen viz. Claviceps fusiformis its management, study of life cycle and screening for genetic resistance. The ergot disease was controlled due to new developed resistant varieties, chemical management etc.
However, amongst the various constrains in production of bajra, the incidence of downy mildew disease especially posed serious another problem in the year 1974.
Many high yielding hybrids have gone out of cultivation only due to severe incidence of downy mildew. So the research was focused on screening of downy mildew disease in the year1975.