Research Highlight

Pigeonpea genome decoded for domestication, disease-resistance traits

doi:10.1038/nindia.2017.54 Published online 22 May 2017

A group of international scientists, including those from India, have re-sequenced the genome of 292 pigeonpea varieties to discover important new traits such as resistance to various diseases and its insensitivity to photo-period (the duration of daylight hours required for reaching maturity)1.

The research also traces the likely origin of the domesticated pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan or 'arhar' in Hindi) to Madhya Pradesh in central India. The researchers say discovery of the new traits will lead to the development of higher-yielding varieties of the crop.

The nine-country sequencing project was led by Hyderabad-based India-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and included researchers from Professor Jayshankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU), Hyderabad, University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Karnataka and Visva-Bharati, Shantiniketan. 

“The study used re-sequencing data to identify genomic regions impacted by domestication and breeding that have contributed to narrowing the genetic base," says Rajeev Varshney, the project director at ICRISAT.  

The study identified the genetic origin of the crop for the first time at a DNA level and identified genes with agronomically useful traits such as resistance to sterility mosaic disease and fusarium wilt, and insensitivity to photoperiod. Understanding these traits at a genetic level will help accelerate pigeonpea breeding and reduce the time to develop superior varieties to 5 years from the earlier 8-10 years, Varshney adds.


1. Varshney, R. K. et al. Whole-genome resequencing of 292 pigeonpea accessions identifies genomic regions associated with domestication and agronomic traits. Nat. Genet. (2017)