Wild species provide insights into improving chickpea crop

23/05/2024 | 2 mins

Wild species of chickpea have greater genetic diversity and variations, which a collaborative study between ICRISAT, The University of Western Australia and Murdoch University (MU) has found could dramatically accelerate crop improvement in modern chickpea.

The findings, published today in the journal Nature Genetics, offer valuable insights into enhancing chickpea genetic diversity and potential avenues for improving the crop.

Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) is a highly nutritious legume crop cultivated in arid and semiarid regions, with an annual global production exceeding 17 million tonnes.

Two main chickpea varieties kabuli (left) and desi (right). Image: Two main chickpea varieties kabuli (left) and desi (right). Stock images

Unfortunately, chickpea has a narrow genetic base, which limits breeders’ ability to improve traits such as disease resistance, flowering time, and stress tolerance.

To broaden chickpea diversity, the research team identified 24,827 gene families and successfully produced a ‘super-pangenome’ based on the de novo genome assemblies of eight annual Cicer wild species.

Director of the Centre for Crop & Food Innovation at MU Professor Rajeev Varshney, who coordinated the study as part of his long-term collaboration with UWA, said the researchers then enriched the dispensable genome for genes related to key agronomic traits.

A green chickpea pod and bean on the plant.Image: A green chickpea pod and bean on the plant. Stock image

“Structural variations between cultivated and wild genomes were used to construct a graph-based genome, revealing variations in genes affecting traits such as flowering time, vernalisation and disease resistance,” he said.

“These variations will facilitate the transfer of valuable traits from wild Cicer species into elite chickpea varieties through marker-assisted selection or gene-editing.

“The genomic resources and unique genes presented in distant relatives of modern-day chickpeas in this new study will greatly benefit chickpea breeding and the advancement of the research community in this area in Australia and globally.”

The UWA Institute of Agriculture Director Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique said the Nature Genetics paper was the culmination of high-level ongoing research collaboration between UWA, ICRISAT, MU and fellow partners.

“Through these powerful partnerships, together we have unlocked new genetic insights that have the potential to significantly improve chickpea crop around the world,” Professor Siddique said.

Media references

Rosanna Candler (Communications Officer, The UWA Institute of Agriculture) +61 08 6488 1650

Share this

Related news


Browse by Topic

Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.