Research Highlight

Genetic secrets to heat and drought tolerance of chickpea unraveled

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.55 Published online 29 April 2019

Scientists have identified genes for heat and drought tolerance in chickpea (Cicer arietinum) – the second largest cultivated grain food legume in the world – paving the way for developing high-yield varieties that can better withstand the vagaries of weather1. They identified the genes after sequencing 429 lines of chickpea (cultivated and wild genotypes) from 45 countries.

The feat was accomplished by a team of 39 scientists from 21 research institutes led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, in collaboration with BGI -- the world's largest genomics research centre headquartered in Shenzhen, China.

The study also confirms that chickpea came to India from the Mediterranean via Afghanistan and may have been introduced back to the primary centres of origin after 200 years.

“The genome-wide association studies identified several candidate genes for 13 agronomic traits including genes which can help the crop tolerate temperatures up to 38oC and provide higher productivity,” Rajeev Varshney, the project leader at ICRISAT, said. Co-leader Xu Xun, of BGI said the research "could enable development of drought and heat-tolerant chickpea varieties for India and Africa".

High in protein. chickpea is important in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine and is also crucial to the food security in India which, in 2016, produced 64% of the world's total chickpeas. More than 90% of chickpea cultivation area is in South Asia. 


1. Varshney, R. et al. Resequencing of 429 chickpea accessions from 45 countries provides insights into genome diversity, domestication and agronomic traits. Nat. Genet. (2019) doi: 10.1038/s41588-019-0401-3