Accelerating genetic gains of drought tolerant chickpea; adoption of ‘Breeding Management System’ (BMS) – software to help breeders manage their day-to-day activities through all phases of the breeding program; and release of new varieties nationally and regionally are some of the plans that scientists and partners are working on in Ethiopia for the Tropical Legumes III (TL III) Project.

The TL III project aims to integrate the genomic resources developed in Tropical Legumes I (TL I) with the applied breeding and seed delivery initiatives of Tropical Legumes II (TL II).

Genomic resources from TL I

TL I made a significant contribution in developing high throughput genotyping and phenotyping platforms, identifying genomic regions (markers) associated with resistance to key biotic and abiotic constraints. In chickpea, a marker for drought tolerance was discovered and transferred via Marker-Assisted Backcrossing to several locally adapted genetic backgrounds in Ethiopia and these derived lines showed substantial promise in multi-location tests, said Dr Asnake Fikre, Principal Investigator of TL II project, and Director of Crops Research at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR).

Further work in introgressing this marker into other adapted chickpea varieties in Ethiopia will be done under TL III. Genetic gain will also be accelerated by institutionalizing marker-assisted breeding for drought resistance and other traits.

Breeding and seed delivery gains from TL II

During the TL II project, seven chickpea varieties were released in Ethiopia. A total of 20,022.3 t of high quality seed of 15 varieties was produced. About 136 Farmer Participatory Varietal Selection (FPVS) trials were conducted with 10,461 farmers and 15 varieties were evaluated.

The selection criteria of farmers included:

  • Early maturity – to avoid end-season drought and reach the market while prices are still high;
  • Vegetable type for local niche markets;
  • High yield potential and profuse podding;
  • Large seed size for domestic consumption/local and international markets;
  • Resistance to terminal drought, Fusarium wilt and Ascochyta blight.

TL III will work alongside other national programs such as N2Africa – Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa; United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD); Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’s (AGRA) Scaling Seeds and Technologies Partnership (SSTP); National Agricultural Research System (NARS) partners; and NGO extension efforts in creating awareness on improved varieties and associated integrated crop management practices. The project will use established network of seed producers, establish new ones and strengthen the ones created during the TL II project, said Dr Chichaibelu Mekasha, Crops Research Process Representative, EIAR-Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center (DZARC), and the TL III focal person for Ethiopia.

More plans for TL III

At a recent planning meeting for TL III, animated discussions took place on the capacity of EIAR-DZARC and its network of partners to deliver on its breeding and seed systems objectives. The planned assessment of breeding efficiency and implementation of recommendations is expected to lead to improved operational protocols, improved experimental design and the use of new analytical methods and tools, including the adoption of ‘Breeding Management System’ (BMS) developed by the Integrated Breeding Platform (IBP).

A total of 34 participants including members of Chickpea and Lentil Research Group of DZARC, partners from Regional Agricultural Research Institutes (RARIs), and Dr Christopher Ochieng Ojiewo, Senior Scientist – Legumes Breeding (ESA) (Grain Legumes), ICRISAT, attended the planning meeting that was conducted at DZARC from 3-5 August.

The TL III supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

Adapted from ICRISAT Happenings