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Crop Biotech Update

Advances in Crop Science Critical in Combating Effects of Climate Change

May 9, 2018

As the effects of climate change continue to bite, it is emerging that advances in crop science offer critical solution to drought and threat posed by pests and diseases. The International Food Legumes Research Conference (IFLRC) in Marrakech, Morrocco has revealed targeted approaches in successfully developing resilient legume varieties that have a great potential to combat these problems.

The approaches include efforts to breed lentils with vertical nodulation and nodule clusters – associated with high nitrogen fixation; legume varieties with mature leaf concentration – a solid proxy for p-acquisition; and pea varieties with waxy leaf surfaces that help to combat heat-stress. Also at the center of discussion at the conference was the progress of additional efforts to screen germplasm for heat tolerance and disease-resistance in chickpeas, lentil, and mung bean.

Doug Cook of the University of California, Davis, introduced the delegates to a new USAID project, which is evaluating the germplasm of two wild progenitor species of cultivated chickpea – Cicer reticulatum and Cicer echinospermum – to identify genes that contribute to abiotic stress tolerance. Cook said the project aims at developing climate-resilient chickpea varieties over the long-term.

The delegates noted that efforts to raise legume production can be supported by big data analytics, which has the potential to transform genomics and crop breeding; enhance agronomic strategies; and refine decision-making. Discussions also touched on geospatial data management; socio-economic data harmonization; accelerated breeding schemes; building computational infrastructures to implement genomic selections; and semantics and plant phenotyping data structuration for data analytics.

The event, which was held on May 6-8, 2018, was hosted by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the Moroccan National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).

Read more from ICARDA.