Genomes, genes and genomics-assisted breeding in chickpea for ensuring nutritional and food security in developing countries

RK Varshney1,2

  1. International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, India
  2. The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

Chickpea (Cicer arietinum) is the second largest cultivated grain food legume globally. Terminal drought stress, Fusarium wilt and Ascochyta blight are serious yield constraints for chickpea production. We are using next generation genomics and genetics approaches to sequence and characterize several thousand chickpea genomes. Comprehensive genome analysis, together with extensive phenotyping data, is providing candidate genes/QTLs for breeding related traits for both advancing molecular biology research as well as genomics-assisted breeding applications in chickpea. For instance, large-scale genomic resources including draft genome sequence, re-sequencing of ca. 3000 chickpea lines, comprehensive transcriptome assembly, high density genetic and BIN maps, QTL maps as well as physical maps have been developed. By using linkage mapping approach, one "QTL-hotspot" harboring QTLs for several drought tolerance related traits has been identified on linkage group CaLG04. This "QTL-hotspot" has been successfully introgressed in several elite chickpea cultivars using marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC) approach. Several introgression lines have shown higher yield as compared to recurrent parent under rainfed as well as irrigated conditions. Similarly by using MABC approach, several introgression lines with enhanced resistance to FW and AB have also been developed. In brief, above mentioned genomics and molecular breeding approaches are expected to enhance genetic gains in chickpea improvement and deliver superior varieties in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.