Chickpea breakthrough could feed millions

Sydney, Jan 30 (IANS) A breakthrough could result in the development of a higher yielding and hardier strains of chickpea and feed millions more in the semi-arid regions of India and African countries, say researchers.

Karam Singh, professor at the University of Western Australia (UWA)'s Institute of Agriculture, and colleagues from the US, China, Canada and Europe, discovered millions of genetic markers that may help develop a higher yielding, more drought and disease resistant version of the chickpea.

The decoding of the chickpea's 90 genotypes is significant because it is a major protein and nitrogen source for people in developing countries. The seed is the second-most widely grown legume after soybean, the journal Nature Biotechnology reports.

Like many other common crops, chickpea (also known as kabuli chana in India) has a narrow genetic base because of domestication.

Usually, chickpea is grown in semi-arid and poor soil which combined with its susceptibility to drought and disease -- have restricted desired yields, according to an UWA statement.

Researchers re-sequenced and analysed the genomes of chickpea from 10 countries. The study covered small-seeded indigenous (Indian), larger-seeded kabuli and wild varieties.

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