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Crop Biotech Update

Global Team Led by ICRISAT Re-sequence Pigeonpea Genome

May 31, 2017

A global team of 19 scientists from 9 institutes led by India-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) have re-sequenced the genome of 292 pigeonpea varieties (Cajanus cajan) from 23 countries and discovered new traits including resistance to diseases that affect the crop and its insensitivity to photoperiod.

Dr. Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program Director at ICRISAT, and the project director, said that the study used re-sequencing data to identify genomic regions impacted by domestication and breeding; identified the genetic origin of the crop at a DNA level for the first time; and identified genes with agronomically useful traits such as resistance to sterility mosaic disease and Fusarium wilt, and insensitivity to photoperiod that will help to accelerate pigeonpea breeding and reduce the time to develop superior varieties from 8-10 years to 5 years. The team also identified the gene "efl3" for making pigeonpea photoperiod insensitive. The research also traces the likely origin of the domesticated pigeonpea to Madhya Pradesh in central India.

ICRISAT's Director General, Dr. David Bergvinson, highlighting the importance of the study, said, "Pigeonpea is a very important commercial crop for smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia as it has a huge export potential. This breakthrough will help us better understand the grain's quality traits and unlock the huge potential of this crop and allow farmers access to high-value markets. Understanding the photoperiod sensitivity is an example as this will allow the crop to be established in many regions where it is currently not grown."

For more details, read the media release from ICRISAT.