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UK Research and Innovations (2017)

Improving root system architecture for enhanced drought tolerance and nutrient use efficiency in semi-arid agriculture of chickpea

Chickpea Drought Roots Semi-arid

Titre : Improving root system architecture for enhanced drought tolerance and nutrient use efficiency in semi-arid agriculture of chickpea

Pays/Région : Zone semi-aride (Ethiopia)

Durée : avr. 17 - oct. 19

Référence projet : BB/P023487/1
Catégorie : Research Grant

Résumé partiel
This project will focus on chickpea in Ethiopia. Agriculture in Ethiopia and a further 19 of 31 "least developed" countries in Africa is constrained by arid, infertile and marginal soil conditions. Climate change, altered precipitation patterns, prolonged droughts and the soil loss that ensues, adds to the challenges. Ethiopia’s population has risen 2.6% annually over the last 50 years, but crop production grew by only 2% annually. Solutions are required to increase crop productivity, quantity and quality, for food security and climate resilience. Legumes such as chickpea and grains such as sorghum, millet and maize are the major crops here. We will focus on chickpea, a key crop in developing nations. Pulses such as chickpea are crucial for protein nutrition to provide income and support livelihoods in rural areas of the least developed countries. Most chickpea growers in semi-arid agrosystems are subsistence farmers who lack resources and knowledge for crop improvement, thus, in the long-term, will benefit most from the improvements we aim for. The crucial role of root systems in limiting crop productivity was not previously addressed in breeding. Root system size and distribution sets the capacity for water and nutrient acquisition and therefore is key for climate stress resilience, contributing to drought tolerance, water and nutrient use efficiency. We will focus on developing advanced but cheap and cost-effective tools for root growth characterisation. This will subsequently allow researchers and breeders in Ethiopia to identify suitable germplasm for chickpea breeding. Plant resilience depends on appropriate root system architecture adapted to local soils ; our low-cost but powerful tools will enable location-adapted breeding programs in Ethiopia for the first time. This will be the most direct path to innovation for increased and sustainable chickpea production by subsistence farmers. We are working closely with international scientists from Ethiopia and USA, with their project : "Climate resistant chickpea" (CRC). This initiative has support by several international programs, e.g. the USAID "Feed the Future", CGIAR "Consortium Research Program on Grain Legumes", and is key for success in our project. CRC generates a huge amount of information and resources for crop improvement. These include : a pre-breeding population consisting of >7000 unique lines and a collection of >600 landrace accessions in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has developed networks of agricultural advice services throughout the country that are critical for uptake of novel technologies and germplasm. We will work closely with these networks through our Ethiopian and international partners to provide pathways for innovation.

Lead Research Organistion : University of Edinburgh

Financement : Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) _ Budget  : £594 981

UK Research and Innovations

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