Participants of the project review and planning meeting. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Closer to delivering more produce and income to smallholder farmers

Participants of the project review and planning meeting. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Participants of the project review and planning meeting. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Farmers’ preferences, high yields, and resistance to drought, pests and diseases will be the priority for scientists. Partners of the project Delivering more produce and income to farmers through enhancing genetic gains for chickpea and pigeonpea, recommended this as they reviewed the progress and defined its future strategies at a planning meeting in July 2019.

Session Chair Dr NP Singh, Director, ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), recommended targeting ‘low-hanging fruits’ – outputs of earlier projects – to accelerate rate of delivery in farmers’ fields and using off-season locations to advance crossing in different stages. He emphasized use of genomics tools in crop improvement to step up crop productivity.

Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT, said, “India leads the world in chickpea production. Collaboration with our partners – the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) – is vital to ensure that farmers’ incomes get a boost with high-yielding varieties tolerant to drought, pests and diseases.”

Describing that the project was carrying out trait mapping, molecular breeding, farmers’ participatory varietal selection and adoption trials, Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director, Genetic Gains, ICRISAT, said, “Many improved chickpea and pigeonpea varieties/ hybrids have reached over 600 farmers in 152 villages of 25 districts across six Indian states. I was very impressed to see high-yielding, drought-tolerant and Fusarium wilt-resistant chickpea varieties in farmers’ fields of Kurnool District in Andhra Pradesh, when I visited.”

Around 30 researchers from nine institutes participated in this meeting to present the project progress on the ground, highlights of which are as follows:

  1. Improved lines under varietal release pipeline
    • Pigeonpea: 1 notified and 1 pre-released and 6 in AVT/IVT1
    • Chickpea: AVT 2: Four molecular breeding lines for drought tolerance; one molecular breeding line for Fusarium wilt resistance
  2. 16 varieties/hybrids each in chickpea and pigeonpea tested in FPVS2 trials
  3. A set of ~200 improved lines (100 each in chickpea and pigeonpea) evaluated for higher yield and desirable traits in multi-location trials
  4. Molecular breeding to enhance drought-tolerance and fusarium wilt resistance in elite lines of chickpea and fusarium wilt and sterility mosaic disease resistances in pigeonpea
  5. High-density genotyping, genetic maps and marker trait associations
  6. NAM3 and MAGIC4 populations advanced in pigeonpea
  7. Around 10 research articles in peer-reviewed journals including Nature Genetics, Scientific Reports, BMC Genomics, Theoretical and Applied Genetics, Plant Biotechnology Journal etc.

Dr Pooran Gaur, Research Program Director – Asia, ICRISAT, said importance must be given to farmers’ ranking of varieties tested in FPVS trials to ensure development of demand-driven varieties. He said, it was important that no variety older than 10 years be grown by farmers.

Activity leads were encouraged to accelerate MABC5 crosses so as to have a complete product ready for testing in fields soon. Phenotyping data analysis of the 100 lines’ multi-location evaluation was suggested to identify location-specific and/or overall better performing lines, so that some of them could be nominated for varietal release through appropriate channel.

The Review and Workplan meeting of the project, funded by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India, was held at Hyderabad.

1 AVT/IVT: Advanced Varietal Trials/Independent Varietal Trials 2 FPVS: Farmer-Preferred Varietal Selection 3 NAM: Nested Association Mapping 4 MAGIC: Multi-parent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross 5 MABC: Marker-Assisted Back Crossing

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