10 October 2021, New Delhi: Three new chickpea varieties, with enhanced drought tolerance, disease resistance and increased yield, are set to become available to the Indian farmers. These have been notified to be available for cultivation by the Central Varietal Release Committee.
Calling for the deployment of ‘fast-forward breeding’, a newly conceived framework that promises faster delivery of varieties to farmers, Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Accelerated Crop Improvement, ICRISAT, who coordinated the integration of genomics-assisted breeding activities for developing these varieties, said, “Counting three other varieties released in 2019 and 2020, genomics-assisted breeding has delivered six high-yielding chickpea varieties in India during the last three years.”
Why chickpea improvement?
Dr Arvind Kumar, ICRISAT’s Deputy Director General-Research, pointed to the threat of drought in chickpea-growing regions of India while explaining the need for sustained and continued research to improve the crop. “Drought alone causes up to 60% annual yield losses in chickpea. The changing climate warrants development of cultivars that can attain their maximum potential under drought stress in rainfed environments as well as in disease-prone environments,” Dr Kumar said.
ICRISAT, in collaboration with ICAR, has been leading the efforts for genetic dissection of drought tolerance and Fusarium wilt resistance in chickpea using the most advanced sequencing and genotyping technologies at its Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology.
Collectively called genomics-assisted breeding, these approaches are being deployed by ICAR institutes such as ICAR-IIPR, ICAR-IARI and several state agricultural universities, in collaboration with ICRISAT, to develop high-yielding, disease-resistant and nutrition-dense varieties faster than ever before.
Among the three new chickpea varieties are the two drought-tolerant varieties – IPC L4-14 and BGM 4005 – that were developed by transferring a ‘QTL-hotspot’ (genes for drought tolerance) from the donor chickpea variety ICC 4958 into two leading parental chickpea varieties, DCP 92-3 and Pusa 362, respectively.
After evaluation at several locations under no-irrigation (rainfed) conditions for many years, the new varieties reported 14.76% and 11.9% overall mean yield advantage over their parental lines. These varieties have been released for cultivation in the North West Plain Zone (NWPZ) for chickpea cultivation in the country covering Punjab, Haryana, plains of Jammu & Kashmir, parts of Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh.
The third variety is Fusarium wilt-resistant IPCMB 19-3, which is also called ‘Samriddhi’. Developed by transferring Foc2 race resistance genes into the parent variety Pusa 256, this variety showed an overall mean yield advantage of 30.3% over its parent line. IPCMB 19-3 has been released in the Central Zone covering Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh.
Dr NP Singh, Director, ICAR-IIPR, while emphasizing the role of genomics-assisted breeding, said, “Such high-yielding varieties developed through new approaches will enhance chickpea production further in India.” He added, “ICAR institutes, in collaboration with ICRISAT, are well prepared and marching ahead to embrace latest technologies.”
Dr Manish Roorkiwal, Senior Scientist, Molecular Breeding and Genomics, ICRISAT, who worked on developing these varieties, informed that the diversity in chickpea germplasm offers plenty of scope for the crop’s improvement as per the changing needs.
“I am delighted to see the collaborative efforts of ICAR and ICRISAT benefit farmers. These new varieties are well poised to strengthen food and nutrition security as well as livelihoods in India by providing adaptation mechanisms to the climate-related challenges confronting the agriculture sector,” said Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT.
The varieties at a glance
|100-seed weight (grams)
|Average yield (kg per hectare)
|128 to 133
|1500 to 1600
|North West Plain Zone
|1600 to 1700
|North West Plain Zone
|2000 to 2100