In recognition of Ethiopia’s leading role as a producer of food legumes in East Africa, ICARDA’s Biodiversity and Integrated Gene Management Program (BIGM) recently held its annual review and planning meeting in Addis Ababa to review progress made over the previous year and plan for the future.

Ethiopia produces over 2.86 million metric tons, over a total area of 1.74 million hectares: faba bean, chickpea, grass pea, and lentil are all important crops within the crop-livestock production systems prevalent across this east African country.

The event provided an opportunity for ICARDA scientists to meet Ethiopian partners and discuss on-going collaborations: the Center’s researchers visited participatory seed production plots, farmer fields in the Amhara region, and the Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center, where research activities for the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes are taking place.

A subsequent evaluation of screening nurseries revealed significant variability for protection against Fusarium wilt and Ascochyta blight in lentil and chickpea – which are significant constraints to agricultural production in Ethiopia and surrounding countries  Some genotypes demonstrated resistance to both diseases, suggesting they could be used for the development of multiple, disease-resistant cultivars of chickpea and lentil.

The visit also provided an opportunity to observe a seed production plot for the kabuli chickpea variety, Ejere, where scientists interacted with farmers of a rural cooperative and discussed their crop management and seed production techniques.

According to farmers, water logging at the vegetative stage appears to have caused substantial damage to legume crops, particularly lentil, in recent years, convincing researchers that screening germplasm against waterlogging at the vegetative stage should require the immediate attention of lentil breeders.

Finally, farmers argued that weeds are a major yield constraint. Fortunately, Ascochyta blight-resistant lines of chickpea from ICARDA, under multi-location yield evaluations, look promising and could soon replace existing kabuli chickpea varieties.

Source: What’s new at ICARDA