The University of California (UC), Davis, and ICRISAT will work together on developing climate resilient chickpea from germplasm that includes cultivated chickpea introgressed with the wild ancestor of chickpea (Cicer reticulatum) from unique, diverse, and recent collections in Turkey.

ICRISAT will phenotype a range of chickpea materials for climate resilience using specialized phenotyping platforms (LeasyScan and LysiField). Both revIL lines and advanced backcross material will be phenotyped for climate resilience.

In the first phase, using a representative set of genotypes in 20 wild populations, the broad differences between wild populations for traits that can affect their response to drought, heat and climate-resilient nitrogen fixation will be studied. The second phase will target the revIL populations selected by UC Davis.

First phase trials would likely take place in the October 2015 – March 2016 period (which covers the usual chickpea growing season in India).

For wild populations, the LeasyScan facility at ICRISAT will be used whereas for the revILs both LeasyScan and lysimetric assessments will be used.

“LeasyScan, a high-throughput phenotyping platform, was designed with a clear research target – to measure leaf area quicker so as to access the dynamics of leaf development and leaf conductance, traits that are the focus for plant drought adaptation,” said Dr Vincent Vadez, Principal Scientist – Plant Physiology, ICRISAT.

The high throughput computerized platform based on 3D images allows scientists to analyze the phenotypes of plants in greater detail, and conduct large-scale screening of plants. This can be linked and integrated into genomics and breeding works to speed up the development of improved, drought-adapted crops. The high throughput scanning equipment can scan between 3,200 to 4,800 plots every 2 hours. LeasyScan was established at ICRISAT-India last year.

Crop adaptation to drought is to a large part an exercise of fitting crop water demand (of a given genotype) to water available in any given scenario. The important features to determine crop water demand are size of the crop canopy (leaf area), the rapidity at which a crop canopy develops, and the canopy conductance to water. The LeasyScan facility at ICRISAT allows the determination of these parameters quickly, efficiently and in a non-destructive manner.

The lysimetric assessments will provide data on total plant water use (the sum of water use data across the entire life of the crop), and transpiration efficiency (the ratio between total biomass produced (pods and vegetative parts) and total plant water used. The evaluation of total plant water use gives an accurate estimate of the fitness of each genotype to given environmental conditions.

Climate-resilient nitrogen fixation
Chickpea as a crop has not been selected to increase its capacity to fix N symbiotically. However, studies indicate it is likely that there is a large genetic variation in chickpea in their capacity to fix N symbiotically, especially in the early stages after sowing. LeasyScan will allow (a) quick measurement of leaf canopy development in both low N soil and high N soil and (b) measurement of maximum nitrogen concentration in the leaf tissue and stem tissues, at flowering time (when it is considered to be the highest) in the revILs.

This work is being undertaken as part of the project “Global Hunger and Food Security Research Strategy: Climate Resilience, Nutrition, and Policy – Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Climate Resilient Chickpea” supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This work is taken part of CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals

Adapted from ICRISAT Happenings