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, Morocco 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).