April 30, 2019 - In a major breakthrough, scientists from 21 global research institutes have successfully completed sequencing of 429 chickpea lines from 45 countries to identify genes for tolerance to drought and heat. The team was led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in close collaboration with the BGI-Shenzhen, China.
The efforts equipped the team with key insights into the crop’s genetic diversity, crop domestication and agronomic traits. The study also mapped the origins of chickpea and its ascent in India and Africa.
What this also means to the agricultural community is that newer varieties of chickpea with higher yields could be developed along with varieties which are disease and pest-resistant, and can better withstand the vagaries of weather.
As many as 39 scientists from 21 research institutions came together to complete this largest-ever exercise of whole-genome resequencing of chickpea. The three-year-long efforts resulted in the publication of a paper on “Resequencing of 429 chickpea accessions from 45 countries provides insights into genome diversity, domestication and agronomic traits”, appeared in Nature Genetics online today.
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 a further reduction in productivity due to rising temperatures.
“The genome-wide association studies identified several candidate genes for 13 agronomic traits. For example, we could identify genes (e.g. REN1, β-1, 3-glucanase, REF6) which can help the crop tolerate temperatures up to 38oC and provide higher productivity,” says Dr. Rajeev Varshney, the project leader and Research Program Director for Genetic Gains, ICRISAT.
The study also confirms that chickpea came to India from Fertile Crescent/ Mediterranean via Afghanistan and may have been introduced back to the primary centers of origin after 200 years. The new study speculates about the possible introduction of Chickpea to the New World directly from Central Asia or East Africa rather than the Mediterranean.
“Our study indicates that in terms of center of origin of chickpea, Fertile Crescent/ Mediterranean is the possible primary center with Ethiopia as a secondary center of diversity. Our new study suggests a migration route from Mediterranean/ Fertile Crescent to Central Asia, and probably in parallel from Central Asia to East Africa (Ethiopia) and South Asia (India),” Dr. Varshney adds.
Dr. Liu Xin, Deputy Director of BGI Research, China, the co-leader of the project said, “The new study established a foundation for large-scale characterization of germplasm, population genetics and crop breeding. The study 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.
Dr. Xu Xun, CEO of BGI and President of BGI Research, China, co-leader of the project said, “BGI is very excited to work with CGIAR institutes like ICRISAT in such kind of high-end science that have applications for developing drought and heat tolerant chickpea varieties in India and Africa. BGI enjoys long-term collaboration with ICRISAT for last 10 years or so and looks forward to working on many exciting projects in the coming years.”
Chickpea is a key source of protein in most Indian diets and India is the biggest consumer of pulses in the world. Yet, despite the demand, there has been an increasing production gap. Pulses are at the core of agricultural sustainability in the country and this new research could propel India to attain self-sufficiency in pulse production.
List of Participating Institutions
• International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, India.
• BGI-Shenzhen, Shenzhen, China.
• ICAR—Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Delhi, India.
• Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), University of Montpellier, Montpellier, France.
• The University of Western Australia (UWA), Crawley, Western Australia, Australia.
• Osmania University, Hyderabad, India.
• Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), Kanpur, India.
• International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Nairobi, Kenya.
• Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), Debre Zeit, Ethiopia.
• Egerton University, Njoro, Kenya.
• University of Agricultural Sciences—Bangalore, Bangalore, India.
• iCarbonX, Shenzhen, China.
• Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea.
• University of California—Davis, Davis, CA, USA.
• International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Mexico, Mexico.
• University of Missouri, National Center for Soybean Biotechnology, Columbia, SC, USA.
• South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), Adelaide, Australia.
• University of Adelaide, Glen Osmond, Australia.
• University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA.
• China National GeneBank (CNGB), Shenzhen, China.
• State Key Laboratory of Agricultural Genomics, Shenzhen, China.
The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT) is an international non-profit, non-political organization that conducts agricultural research for development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with a wide array of partners throughout the world. Covering 6.5 million square kilometers of land in 55 countries, the semi-arid tropics have over 2 billion people, and 644 million of these are the poorest of the poor.
ICRISAT is headquartered in Patancheru, Hyderabad, Telangana, India, with two regional hubs and six country offices in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a member of the CGIAR Consortium. For more information on ICRISAT visit www.icrisat.org; for ICRISAT’s scientific information visit http://EXPLOREit.icrisat.org.
CGIAR is a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future. Its science is carried out by 15 research centres in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations. www.cgiar.org
For information on ICRISAT’s Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology, visit http://cegsb.icrisat.org/ .
BGI was founded in 1999 with the vision of using genomics to benefit humankind and has since become one of the largest genomics organizations in the world. With a focus on research and applications in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, conservation and environmental fields, BGI has a proven track record of innovative, high profile research, which has generated more than 2,130 publications. BGI’s goal is to make state-of-the-art genomics highly accessible to the global research community and clinical markets by integrating the industry’s broadest array of leading technologies, including BGI's own sequencing platform, economies of scale, and expert bioinformatics resources. BGI also offers a wide portfolio of transformative genetic testing products across major diseases, enabling medical providers and patients worldwide to realize the promise of genomics-based diagnostics and personalized healthcare. For more information, please visit www.genomics.cn.