Sci­en­tists re-se­quence genome of 292 pi­geon­pea va­ri­eties

Pi­geon­pea (Tur Dal) genome re-se­quenc­ing, by global team of 19 sci­en­tists from 9 in­sti­tutes, will lead to su­pe­rior va­ri­eties and make the pulses more af­ford­able

Rural & Marketing - - RESEARCH -

In a sig­nif­i­cant break­through, a global team of 19 sci­en­tists from 9 in­sti­tutes have re­se­quenced the genome or DNA of 292 pi­geon­pea va­ri­eties - Ca­janus ca­jan – com­monly called arhar or tur dal in In­dia - and dis­cov­ered new traits such as re­sis­tance to var­i­ous dis­eases that af­fect the crop and its in­sen­si­tiv­ity to photo-pe­riod - the du­ra­tion of day­light hours re­quired for reach­ing ma­tu­rity. The re­search also traces the likely ori­gin of the do­mes­ti­cated pi­geon­pea to Mad­hya Pradesh in cen­tral In­dia.

This break­through will lead to the development of su­pe­rior va­ri­eties of this im­por­tant pulse crop which can en­able higher pro­duc­tion and prof­its for small­holder farm­ers, bet­ter mar­ket value and bring it within an af­ford­able price range for the con­sumer, es­pe­cially the poor. Pi­geon­pea is a ma­jor source of pro­tein, fiber, min­er­als, vi­ta­mins and re­sis­tant starch. It is im­por­tant for en­sur­ing nu­tri­tional se­cu­rity for mil­lions in the de­vel­op­ing world. How­ever, the crop yield has re­mained stag­nant over the last six decades, with lim­ited ge­netic di­ver­sity and genome in­for­ma­tion, which is re­quired for the development of su­pe­rior va­ri­eties.

The 9 col­lab­o­rat­ing in­sti­tutes are the School of Agri­cul­ture and En­vi­ron­ment and In­sti­tute of Agri­cul­ture, The Univer­sity of Western Aus­tralia; Shen­zhen Mil­len­nium Ge­nomics Inc., China; Macro­gen Inc., Seoul, Re­pub­lic of Korea; In­sti­tute of Biotech­nol­ogy at Pro­fes­sor Jayashankar Telangana State Agri­cul­tural Univer­sity (PJTSAU), Hy­der­abad, In­dia; Agri­cul­tural Re­search Sta­tion–Gul­barga at Univer­sity of Agri­cul­tural Sciences (UAS), Kar­nataka, In­dia; the De­part­ment of Plant Sciences at Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia–Davis, USA; Bi­o­log­i­cal Sciences and In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter for Trop­i­cal Botany, Florida In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity, Mi­ami, USA; Visva-Bharati, Shan­tinike­tan, In­dia and led by the In­dia-based In­ter­na­tional Crops Re­search

In­sti­tute for the Semi-Arid Trop­ics (ICRISAT), Hy­der­abad.

Grown on more than 5 mil­lion hectares, pri­mar­ily by small­holder farm­ers, pi­geon­pea is the sixth most im­por­tant food crop in the world. It is cen­tral to the In­dian gov­ern­ment’s goal of at­tain­ing self-suf­fi­ciency in pulse pro­duc­tion, and an im­por­tant source of pro­tein to en­sure nu­tri­tional se­cu­rity for moth­ers and chil­dren. Pi­geon­pea im­ports were close to 300,000 tonnes in 2012-13 and the prices of pulses have put them out of reach for a ma­jor­ity of the In­dian pop­u­la­tion.

“The study used re-se­quenc­ing data to iden­tify ge­nomic re­gions im­pacted by do­mes­ti­ca­tion and breed­ing that have con­trib­uted to nar­row­ing the ge­netic base. The study also iden­ti­fied the ge­netic ori­gin of the crop at a DNA level for the first time and iden­ti­fied genes with agro­nom­i­cally use­ful traits such as re­sis­tance to steril­ity mo­saic dis­ease and fusar­ium wilt, and in­sen­si­tiv­ity to pho­tope­riod that will help ac­cel­er­ate pi­geon­pea breed­ing and re­duce the time to de­velop su­pe­rior va­ri­eties from 8-10 years to 5 years,” said, Dr Ra­jeev K Varsh­ney, Re­search Pro­gram Di­rec­tor, ICRISAT who is also the project di­rec­tor of this pi­geon­pea re­search ini­tia­tive.

This is one of the big­gest break­throughs in pi­geon­pea re­search since the de­cod­ing of its DNA se­quence in 2011 by an ICRISAT-led global re­search team, and al­lows for a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of pat­terns of genome-wide vari­a­tions and the ge­netic ba­sis of agro­nomic traits.

Dr Ra­chit Saxena, Se­nior Sci­en­tist (Pi­geon­pea Ge­nomics), ICRISAT, high­lighted, “The re­search

The study iden­ti­fied the ge­netic ori­gin of the crop at a DNA level for the first time and iden­ti­fied genes with agro­nom­i­cally use­ful traits such as re­sis­tance to steril­ity mo­saic dis­ease and fusar­ium wilt, and in­sen­si­tiv­ity to pho­tope­riod that will help ac­cel­er­ate pi­geon­pea breed­ing and re­duce the time to de­velop su­pe­rior va­ri­eties

also mapped sim­i­lar­i­ties and dis­sim­i­lar­i­ties between mod­ern cul­ti­vars, lan­draces and wild species to ar­rive at the source and sub­se­quent move­ment of pi­geon­pea from South Asia to sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa and fi­nally to Cen­tral and South Amer­ica.”

High­light­ing the im­por­tance of the study, ICRISAT’s Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, Dr David Bergvin­son said, “Pi­geon­pea is a very im­por­tant com­mer­cial crop for small­holder farm­ers in Africa and Asia as it has a huge ex­port po­ten­tial. This break­through will help us bet­ter un­der­stand the grain’s qual­ity traits and un­lock the huge po­ten­tial of this crop and al­low farm­ers ac­cess to high value mar­kets. Un­der­stand­ing the pho­tope­riod sen­si­tiv­ity is an ex­am­ple as this will al­low the crop to be es­tab­lished in many re­gions where it is cur­rently not grown.”

Dr Robert Ber­tram, Chief Sci­en­tist, USAID, the main spon­sor of the study said, “This USAID sup­ported re­search is an im­por­tant mile­stone in pi­geon­pea ge­net­ics and ge­nomics. Pi­geon­pea is vi­tal to the liveli­hoods of mil­lions of farm­ers across Asia and sub­Sa­ha­ran Africa. The find­ings in this study will help pi­geon­pea farm­ers boost their pro­duc­tiv­ity and ex­pand food and nu­tri­tional se­cu­rity across Asia and sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa.”

Dr SK Pat­tanayak, Sec­re­tary, Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Farm­ers Wel­fare, Gov­ern­ment of In­dia, that co-spon­sored the re­search, puts this dis­cov­ery in the con­text of dou­bling of farm­ers’ in­comes in In­dia. He said, “In­dia needs such crit­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies that do not just add to sci­en­tific knowl­edge but also en­hance pro­duc­tion by de­liv­er­ing photo-in­sen­si­tive lines and in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity by de­liv­er­ing high yield­ing va­ri­eties.

This re­search will also al­low for com­par­a­tive stud­ies against other legumes, con­tribut­ing valu­able resources to ac­cel­er­ate ge­netic gains to ben­e­fit pi­geon­pea farm­ers and en­sure prof­itabil­ity and a food­se­cure fu­ture through ef­fec­tive risk man­age­ment.

Pi­geon­pea is one of ICRISAT’s man­date crops, along with chick­pea, sorghum, pearl mil­let and fin­ger mil­let. Global re­search part­ner­ships led by ICRISAT have de­coded the genome se­quences of pi­geon­pea in 2011, chick­pea in 2013, and ground­nut in 2016; it is cur­rently lead­ing the genome se­quenc­ing of pearl mil­let.

Re­search Pro­gram Di­rec­tor, ICRISAT Ra­jeev K Varsh­ney (Left) and Se­nior sci­en­tist Ra­chit Saxena in­spect pi­geon­pea ac­ces­sions for agro­nom­i­cally im­por­tant traits and dis­ease re­sist

Dr Ra­jeev K Varsh­ney

Re­search Pro­gram Di­rec­tor, ICRISAT and project di­rec­tor of pi­geon­pea re­search

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