Breeding high nutritional varieties of chickpea and pigeon pea just got easier. Genomic processes which used to take years are being completed in just a few months with the help of new technology.

This was found by scientists from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) here, in collaboration with NRGene, Israel who helped create multiple assembly lines of pigeon pea and chickpea genomes. This means scientists can not only understand crop traits, they can also significantly speed up work on improved varieties.

With this technology from NRGene, ICRISAT has chickpea and pigeon pea genomes to a reference level quality that researchers can use. This would help maximise favorable nutritional properties of these high-protein legumes.

“The developing world has long faced the pressures of food security with limited farmland,” says Dr Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program director, Genetic Gains and director of Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology, ICRISAT.

“For effective use of genomics-assisted breeding, we need reference genomes of several varieties of a given crop. Therefore, new assemblies of chickpea and pigeon pea lines by NRGene and ICRISAT will allow our scientists and partners to better understand plant traits to breed more nutritional varieties.” ICRISAT in partnership with other institutions, has already decoded and documented genomes of pigeon pea and chickpea (Nature Biotechnology 2013, Nature Biotechnology 2012)

Traditional methods would have required years to complete each individual assembly. NRGene’s DeNovoMAGIC 3.0 delivered multiple assemblies in a matter of months. “While DeNovoMAGIC has been successfully deployed by the world’s leading seed companies and academic institutions, implementing this for organisations like ICRISAT enhances our mission of making an impact on the world food supply,” says Dr. Gil Ronen, CEO of NRGene.

“Chickpea, pigeon pea, and other protein-rich legumes will be even more critical crops in the future and we are glad that our technology can be used to improve the nutritional status of the world.”

Chickpea and pigeon pea have 15-22 grams of protein per 100 grams and are a critical food and nutrition source in India, Africa, and the Caribbean. India produces 64% of the world’s total chickpeas and 63% of the world’s pigeon pea. However, protein hunger, an important aspect of malnutrition continues to be a major concern in Asia.

The drylands, covering 55 countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa inhabited by 2 billion people, 644 million of whom are poor, is most vulnerable to climate change with very little rainfall, degraded soils and poor social infrastructure. ICRISAT through scientific research aims to find solutions for the nutrition security of people in these regions.


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