A massive international research effort has led to development of a genetic model for the ‘ultimate’ chickpea, with the potential to lift crop yields by up to 12 per cent.
The research consortium genetically mapped thousands of chickpea varieties, and the UQ team then used this information to identify the most valuable gene combinations using artificial intelligence (AI).
Professor Ben Hayes led the UQ component of the project with Professor Kai Voss-Fels and Associate Professor Lee Hickey, to develop a ‘haplotype’ genomic prediction crop breeding strategy, for enhanced performance for seed weight.
“Most crop species only have a few varieties sequenced, so it was a massive undertaking by the international team to analyse more than 3000 cultivated and wild varieties,” Professor Hayes said.
The landmark international study was led by Dr Rajeev Varshney from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad, India. The study confirmed chickpea’s origin in the Fertile Crescent and provides a complete picture of genetic variation within chickpea.
“We identified 1,582 novel genes and established the pan-genome of chickpea, which will serve as a foundation for breeding superior chickpea varieties with enhanced yield, higher resistance to drought, heat and diseases,” Dr Varshney said.
Professor Hayes said the UQ team used the data to model a chickpea with perfect genetics for seed weight, a trait linked to yield.