04
Apr

Modern genomic tools for crop improvement help farmers withstand shocks

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At the project launch (L-R) Dr Krishnappa, Ms Ambika, Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, Mr Narasimharaju, Dr Peter Carberry, Deputy Director General Research, and Dr Varshney. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

At the project launch (L-R) Dr Krishnappa, Ms Ambika, Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, Mr Narasimharaju, Dr Peter Carberry, Deputy Director General Research, and Dr Varshney.Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Using modern genomic tools to improve dryland crops – finger millet, sorghum, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut – is a top priority for the Government of Karnataka (GoK), India. Through the GoK Genomics Project Consortium, new tools like molecular assisted breeding and genome mapping will be used for improving these crops to withstand drought, insects and diseases.

Mr Krishna Byre Gowda, Minister of Agriculture, GoK, in his address at the project launch said, “We are implementing this through a consortium which includes State Agricultural Universities (SAUs), the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and ICRISAT. The existing high yielding cultivars preferred by farmers need to be improved further by using new techniques for incorporating drought tolerance as well as insect and disease tolerance to benefit the farmers.” In his absence the address was read out by  Dr K Krishnappa, Resident Project Scientist, ICRISAT.

Work plans for each crop

At the project launch, scientists from the SAUs and ICRISAT came up with work plans for each crop.

Work in finger millet will focus on genome re-sequencing of 1,000 germplasm lines important to Karnataka. This project will work in collaboration with institutions in Kenya, USA and China and focus on developing new breeding lines with improved resistance to blast, drought and heat tolerance. Karnataka is the leading producer of finger millet, accounting for 58% of India’s production.

The focus for chickpea will be on developing improved lines with enhanced drought tolerance, Fusarium wilt resistance and molecular mapping of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for dry root rot.

For pigeonpea the main concern is the emergence of new strains of wilt and sterility mosaic disease and susceptibility of resistant varieties to these new strains. Candidate genes for these diseases will be identified and improved high yielding varieties and hybrids developed through molecular breeding.

Groundnut is a major oil seed crop in Karnataka. High oleic oil has health benefits to consumers and also benefits industry as it enhances shelf life of products. Therefore, developing high oleic groundnut lines using genomics research is a priority. Three to four popular varieties of Karnataka will be improved for resistance to foliar fungal diseases, rust and late leaf spot.

For postrainy sorghum the emphasis is on developing cultivars with stabilized grain and fodder yield and tolerance to shoot fly and drought while diversifying the genetic base.

“To benefit the farmers of the state through the development and release of superior varieties, it is important to evaluate molecular breeding lines coming from earlier or ongoing projects of chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut and sorghum in the state,” said Dr Rajeev Varshney, GoK Genomics Project Consortium Coordinator and Research Program Director Genetic Gains, ICRISAT.

The project launch, held on 18 March at ICRISAT-India, was attended by Mr Jaya Narasimharaju, Executive Director, Watershed Development Department, Ms Ambika, Department of Agriculture, and scientists from the SAUs and ICRISAT

The Digital Library project

GoK is developing a digital library that has real-time data on soil, water, weather, crops and the socio-economic conditions for the state of Karnataka. “This is an important project and can be a model for the entire country. For the library data we are mapping land for crop suitability,” said Mr Jaya Narasimharaju.

For the data on hydrology the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, India, is assisting GoK. ICRISAT has helped with soil mapping and is also helping in developing a portal wherein any farmer or stakeholder can get information on any crop along with a cost benefit analysis. The information can also be accessed on a mobile. This will be a major activity undertaken by the consortium.

Harnessing the power of genetics and genomics for enhancing rabi sorghum productivity in Karnataka state, India

Investor: Karnataka Watershed Development Department, Govt of Karnataka

Partners: University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS-Dharwad), University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS-Raichur)

CRP: Dryland Cereals

Integrated genomics-assisted breeding for efficient development of superior finger millet varieties for Karnataka

Investor: Dept of Agriculture, Govt of Karnataka

Partners: All India Coordinated Research Project on Small Millets, University of Agricultural Sciences  Bangalore.

CRP: Dryland Cereals

Improving popular groundnut varieties for foliar disease resistance and high oleate trait using genomics-assisted breeding approach and multi-location testing of MABC lines for varietal release in Karnataka state of India

Investor: Karnataka Watershed Development Department, Govt of Karnataka

Partners: University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS-Dharwad), University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS-Raichur)

CRP: Grain Legumes

Development of climate resilient chickpea varieties using genomics-assisted breeding and promotion of best suitable cultivars for food and nutritional security in Karnataka state of India

Investor: Karnataka Watershed Development Department, Govt of Karnataka

Partners: University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS-Raichur)

CRP: Grain Legumes

Genomics-assisted breeding for high yielding and climate resilient pigeonpea varieties/hybrids and promotion of best suitable cultivars for food and nutritional security in Karnataka state of India

Investor: Karnataka Watershed Development Department, Govt of Karnataka

Partners: University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS-Dharwad), University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS-Raichur)

CRPs: Grain Legumes

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