Breeding high nutritional varieties of chickpea and pigeonpea just got easier. With new technology, genomic processes that could have taken years have been completed in just a few months.
This has been possible because of the work of scientists from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) headquartered in India, who in collaboration with NRGene, Israel created multiple assembly lines of pigeonpea and chickpea genomes. This means scientists can not only better understand crop traits; they can also significantly speed up work on improved varieties.
With this technology from NRGene, ICRISAT has brought chickpea and pigeonpea genomes to a reference level quality that researchers can use. This would help maximise favourable nutritional properties of these high-protein legumes.
Dr Rajeev K Varshney, research program director, Genetic Gains and Director, Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology, ICRISAT says “For effective use of genomics-assisted breeding, we need reference genomes of several varieties of a given crop. Therefore, new assemblies of chickpea and pigeonpea lines will allow our scientists and partners to better understand plant traits to breed more nutritional varieties.”
ICRISAT, in partnership with other institutions, has already decoded and documented genomes of pigeon pea and chickpea. Chickpea and pigeonpea have 15-22 grams of protein per 100 grams and are a critical food and nutrition source in India, Africa, and the Caribbean. India produces 64% of the world’s total chickpeas and 63% of the world’s pigeon pea. However, protein hunger, an important aspect of malnutrition continues to be a major concern in Asia.
The drylands, covering 55 countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and inhabited by two billion people, 644 million of whom are poor, are most vulnerable to climate change with very little rainfall, degraded soils and poor social infrastructure.