Scope for genetic manipulation of mineral acquisition in chickpea


Nutrient acquisition in chickpea needs to be efficient, because it is mainly grown as a post-rainy season, rainfed crop, and generally on soils inferior in physical characteristics and poor in fertility. Nutrient deficiencies have been reported to cause yield losses of varying magnitude in chickpea, e.g., 22-50% due to iron (Fe), around 10% due to sub-optimal nodulation and hence nitrogen (N) deficiency, 29-45% due to phosphorus (P), up to 100% due to boron (B), and 16-30% due to sulphur (S). Yield losses due to salinity are equally large but are difficult to estimate because of its heterogeneous occurrence. In chickpea, genotypic differences in morpho-physiological (including root size) and functional (exudates) root traits, and in nodulation capacity for increased nitrogen fixation have been identified. Genotypic differences in response to application of Fe, B and zinc (Zn) have also been found among chickpea genotypes. A drought tolerant chickpea genotype ICC 4958, which has a relatively large root system, acquired more P than other genotypes during the vegetative period in a pot experiment at ICRISAT. The recent thrust on identifying QTLs for root size should facilitate progress in incorporating useful root traits through marker assisted selection in desirable agronomic backgrounds. Selection for nodulation capacity in released cultivars has resulted in high nodulating chickpea genotypes that produced 10% higher yield than the control varieties. Information on targeted crop improvement for higher nutrient-use efficiency for P, S, Zn, B and Fe is not readily available. Methods to screen for tolerance to salinity are available, but sufficiently high levels of tolerance have not yet been found in germplasm or wild relatives of chickpea to warrant breeding for salinity tolerance. Use of alternative approaches, such as mutation to generate genetic diversity or introgression of alien genes from other crops (transgenic) are thus required, and these remain long-term objectives.

Publication Title

Plant and Soil