Brendon Cant brendon at iinet.net.au
Wed Sep 14 13:44:01 EST 2005



Australia's chickpea growers could enjoy higher yields from a new phytophora
root rot resistant variety developed by crossing chickpea with a wild cousin
and this is just one possible way wild relatives can improve crops.


Although chickpea can bring $A450 per tonne in WA, it is often ravaged by


One such disease is phytophora root rot, which, according to Ted Knights,
chickpea breeder at Tamworth Agriculture Institute, seriously threatens
Australia's chickpea industry, with an estimated 100,000 hectares at risk
this year.


"Affected areas could suffer yield losses greater than 20 per cent at the
regional level in any one year and above 50 per cent at the grower level,"
Mr Knights said.


Working through the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA)
at the University of WA, Fucheng Shan and colleagues have studied all known
annual wild relatives of cultivated chickpea from the world's gene banks to
transfer a more diverse genetic heritage into commercial crops.


Supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, CLIMA has
characterised the international family of about 200 annual wild Cicer
accessions using DNA markers.


"Knowledge of where these wild species grow and their diversity has,
effectively, mapped global 'hot spots', making further collection and future
research easier," Dr Shan said.


Dr Shan noted that the low genetic variation of chickpea, which is the
unique cultivated Cicer species, is one reason why global chickpea yield
improvement has been slower than in cereals.


"This reinforces the necessity to introduce valuable genes from its wild


"Successful crop improvement depends on genetic diversity of germplasm.


"Characterising the world's wild Cicer collections, using DNA markers,
showed they have much wider genetic variation and are potential gene donors
to help chickpea win its battle against pests, diseases and other
constraints," Dr Shan said.



Authorised by GRDC and issued on its behalf by Brendon Cant & Associates,
Tel 08 9385 7779

MEDIA CONTACTS: Dr Fucheng Shan, Tel 08 6488 7193

                                   Mr Ted Knights, Tel 02 6763 1179




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