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Chickpea genome could make crop stronger

UC DAVIS (US) — Scientists have sequenced the chickpea genome, an advance that could lead to making the protein-rich seeds hardier and more resistant to disease.

Chickpeas are a critically important crop in many parts of the world, especially for small-farm operators in marginal environments of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to researchers.

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The reference genome of the chickpea variety known as CDC Frontier and the genome sequence of 90 cultivated and wild chickpea lines from 10 different countries are published in the online version of Nature Biotechnology this week.

“The importance of this new resource for chickpea improvement cannot be overstated,” says Douglas Cook, a professor of plant pathology at University of California, Davis.

“The sequencing of the chickpea provides genetic information that will help plant breeders develop highly productive chickpea varieties that can better tolerate drought and resist disease—traits that are particularly important in light of the threat of global climate change,” says Cook, one of the study’s three lead authors.

The chickpea plant, whose seed is also called a garbanzo bean, is thought to have originated in the Middle East nearly 7,400 years ago.

India grows, consumes, and imports more chickpeas than any other nation in the world, producing more than 8 million tons annually, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2011 statistics. In contrast, the United States produced 95,770 tons of chickpeas annually, as of 2011.

The International Chickpea Genome Sequencing Consortium, led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, includes 49 scientists from 23 organizations in 10 countries, including Iowa State University, University of Arizona, and the University of Queensland.

Funded for the sequences project came from the US National Science Foundation; Saskatchewan Pulse Growers of Canada; Grains Resource Development Corporation of Australia; Indo-German Technology Corporation of Germany and India; National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology of Spain; US Department of Agriculture; Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic; University of Cordoba, Spain; Indian Council of Agricultural Research; BGI of China; and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.

Source: UC Davis

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