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Global team cracks genetic code to develop Chickpea

In a major breakthrough, scientists from 21 research institutes globally, have successfully completed sequencing of 429 chickpea lines from 45 countries to identify genes for tolerance to drought and heat.

The researchers from the Center of Excellence in Genomics and Systems Biology, ICRISAT equipped the team with key insights into the crop’s genetic diversity, domestication and agronomic traits.

The study also mapped the origins of chickpea and its ascent in Asia and Africa.

The team led by ICRISAT in close collaboration with BGI-Shenzhen, China, involved 39 scientists from leading research institutes world over. This is the largest-ever exercise of whole-genome resequencing of chickpea.

What this means to the agricultural community is potential development of newer varieties of chickpea with higher yields, which are disease and pest resistant, and better able to withstand the vagaries of weather.

The results of the three-year-long efforts have now been published in Nature Genetics online with the title, ‘Resequencing of 429 chickpea accessions from 45 countries provides insights into genome diversity, domestication and agronomic traits’.

More than 90% of chickpea cultivation area is in South Asia. Drought and increasing temperatures are said to cause more than 70% yield loss in chickpea globally. Chickpea being a cool season crop is likely to suffer further reduction in productivity due to rising temperatures.

Dr Xu Xun, CEO and President, BGI Research, China, co-leader of the project said:

BGI is very excited to work with CGIAR institutes like ICRISAT in high-end science research which could enable development of drought and heat-tolerant chickpea varieties for India and Africa. BGI has been enjoying a collaboration with ICRISAT for the past decade and we look forward to work together on many exciting projects in the years to come, he explained.

The study established a foundation for large-scale characterization of germplasm, population genetics and crop breeding. It also helped understand domestication and post-domestication divergence of chickpea.

This new found knowledge will enable breeders to enhance the use of diverse germplasm and candidate genes in developing improved (climate-change ready) varieties that will contribute significantly to the increased productivity and sustainability of agricultural development in developing countries, said Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT.

Source: Voice of Nigeria