Jun 272012
 
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India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of chickpea, accounting for more than a third (66 percent) of world production.

The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and the Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR) are collaborating with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) on marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC), to improve chickpeas for drought tolerance.

This complementary activity in the Tropical Legumes I project (TLI) Phase II is being funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.

Dr N Nadrajan (pictured left), IIPR Director, adds “We have been trained on the breeding tools offered by the Integrated Breeding Platform, including data management, and on electronic data collection using a handheld device.”

Shailesh Tripathi (pictured right) is a Senior Scientist working on chickpea breeding at IARI. “During Phase I of TLI, ICRISAT and its partners identified a root-trait QTL region which confers drought tolerance in chickpeas, and the markers by which to transfer this QTL region. By evaluating the chickpea reference set, ICRISAT and its partners in Africa identified about 40 lines for drought tolerance, and these lines are being used in Phase II of the project,” says Shailesh. [Editor’s note: A ‘reference set’ is a sub-sample of existing germplasm collections that facilitates and enables access to existing crop diversity for desired traits, such as drought tolerance or resistance to disease or pests]

“Through GCP, we have benefitted from training in molecular breeding. The benefits of this go beyond this project,” he adds.

The Indian scientists are using MABC as well as marker-assisted recurrent selection (MARS) in Phase II, applying genomic resources that came from Phase I of the project.

“Our goal is to obtain lines with good root traits for drought tolerance,” says Shailesh, realistically adding that “Variety release will take time, but the good news is that we already have the pre-release materials to identify donors for specific traits, like root biomass.”

Progress in chickpea research in Africa and Asia

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