Hyderabad: As many as 40 germplasm lines of chickpea with resistance to extreme weather conditions like drought, high temperature and salinity have been identified by a city-based crop research institute.
The climate resilient germplasm lines are expected to further strengthen efforts to develop adaptation measures and support mitigation measures to help small holder farmers in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa cope up with changing climates, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) said in a statement here.
A diverse chickpea mini core germplasm collection consisting of 211 lines was systematically evaluated to identify beneficial traits, such as high yield and drought tolerance in the 40 lines.
The evaluation of this collection also helped ICRISAT Genebank team identify 31 lines with resistance to pests and diseases. Six germplasm lines of chickpea were found to have resistance to extreme weather, pests and diseases, it said.
"Climate change is here and is happening. We have been experiencing extreme weather events, like the severe floods in India last year that devastated the northern states and recently Typhoon Haiyan that ravaged the Philippines," ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar said.
"You will see more of these extreme events which will also adversely affect agriculture. Under these circumstances, the findings by ICRISAT Genebank team will help small holder farmers close crop yield gaps significantly," he said.
The rich and diverse germplasm resources available at the ICRISAT genebank have been helping plant breeders in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa as sources of beneficial traits to develop new high-yielding and resilient varieties with better quality to boost production of food crops like chickpea, even under a climate change regime, the statement said.
The samples of seeds collected from farmers` fields, having genes with desirable traits, act as valuable material for plant breeders in making new crosses and incorporating new unique characteristics into existing varieties, it said.
Chickpea is an important legume in the world, with a total worldwide production of 11.6 million tons on 13.2 m ha of land. India accounts for 70.7 per cent of the world chickpea production while Australia, Turkey, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Iran and Pakistan are other important producers.
Rich in protein, starch, fibre, minerals and vitamins, chickpea is one of the most nutritionally balanced pulses for human consumption.
It is grown as a winter crop in Indian subcontinent (October-November to March-April) on receding soil moisture, mostly on marginal soils and has the potential to feed millions of people.
About 89 cultivators of chickpea based on ICRISAT-bred materials and germplasm conserved in its genebank have been released in different countries across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa over the past few years significantly, benefiting small holder farmers in dryland regions, the statement said.
The latest findings are the result of a 14-year effort by the team led by Dr Hari D Upadhyaya, head of genebank at ICRISAT, published in the paper `Mini Core Collection as a Resource to Identify New Sources of Variation`, featured in the prestigious journal?Crop Science?by the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA).
Upadhyaya recently received the most prestigious Crop Science Research Award from the CSSA.