Exploitation of wild Cicer species for yield improvement in chickpea
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Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) ranks third in the world, and first in the Mediterranean basin, for production among pulses. Despite its importance as a crop and considerable research effort, traditional breeding methods have so far been unable to produce cultivars with a large impact on chickpea production. Interspecific hybridization is known to improve yield in many crops. Therefore, an attempt was made to increase the seed yield in chickpea through the introgression of genes from wild relatives at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Syria, from 1987 to 1995. Four crosses, ILC 482 (C. arietinum)×ILWC 179 (C. echinospermum) and ILC 482×ILWC 124 (C. reticulatum) and their reciprocals, were made. Pedigree selection was used to advance the material. Heterosis was recorded visually in F1s, and single plant measurements for seed yield were recorded in F2 populations. Promising and uniform progenies were bulked in the F5 generation. Out of 96 F6 lines, 22 were selected on the basis of seed yield and other agronomic characters, and evaluated in a replicated trial for seed yield and 14 agronomical, morphological and quality characters. A high level of heterosis was observed in F1s. Several F2 plants produced two to three times more seed yield than the best plant from the cultigen. Nine F7 lines out-yielded the cultigen parent by up to 39%. Over 2 years, 12 lines had a higher yield than the cultigen parent. These lines were not only high yielding but also free of any known undesirable traits from the wild species, such as spreading growth habit, pod dehiscence, and non-uniform maturity. Quality traits, such as seed shape, type, colour, weight, and testa texture, protein content, cooking time and an organoleptic test of a Middle East dish, Homos Bi-Tehineh, were also similar to the cultigen parent. Both C. echinospermum and C. reticulatum contributed towards the increased yield.
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