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SELECTBIO Conferences AgriGenomics India 2017


Translational Genomics for accelerating Genetic Gains in Legume Crops

Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director, ICRISAT

Legume crops such as chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut contribute to livelihood and human nutrition as a rich source of protein and are mostly grown in semi-arid and tropical regions of many Asian and African countries. Exposure of these crops to different biotic and abiotic stresses in marginal environments results in low crop productivity in developing countries. Until recently, very limited genomic resources were available in these crops and these crops used to be called “orphan crops”. During the last decade (2006–2016), demand-driven innovations in genome science resulted in unraveling many complex traits at genetic as well as molecular level in the above mentioned legume crops. Large scale genomic resources such as draft genome sequence assemblies, transcriptome assemblies, gene expression atlases, comprehensive genetic and physical maps, large number of SSR markers, millions of SNPs, several high-throughput as well as low cost marker genotyping platforms etc. have been developed in these legume crops. Furthermore, several complex as well as simple traits related to breeding have also been mapped. Translational genomics approaches have been deployed for introgressing resistance/ tolerance to several biotic and abiotic stresses resulting in development of superior lines including enhanced drought tolerance, enhanced and pyramided resistance to Fusarium wilt and Ascochyta blight in chickpea, enhanced resistance to leaf rust in groundnut, improved oil quality in groundnut and enhanced resistance to sterility mosaic disease in pigeonpea. With an objective of accelerating genetic gains continuously, new approaches such as early generation screening (forward breeding), genomic prediction and promotion of alleles through genome editing may be used to shorten breeding cycle for development of superior varieties faster. However, continuous delivery and a faster turnover of new varieties together with training to farmers in agronomy in collaboration with partners from developing countries will be essential to realize the genetic gains in farmers field. 

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