Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 193–202 | Cite as

Stress gradients select for ecotype formation in Cicer judaicum Boiss., a wild relative of domesticated chickpea

  • Roi Ben-David
  • Shahal Abbo
  • Jens D. BergerEmail author
Research Article


The investigation of plant adaptive strategies has been enhanced by the advent of high resolution climate models facilitating greatly improved fine-scale habitat characterization. We have used this approach in the evaluation of C. judaicum Boiss., an annual wild relative of chickpea. 54 accessions from 12 Israeli populations representing three separate habitats differing in temperature and terminal drought stress intensity were evaluated in a common garden experiment, measuring phenology and growth. The results indicate that C. judaicum formed distinct ecotypes along environmental stress gradients, with stress avoidance as a key adaptive strategy: (1) germination is delayed with increasing collection site altitude and associated decreasing temperatures; (2) flowering date and productivity (as estimated by mainstem length) are inversely related to habitat stress, as defined by site climate or soil type. Populations from stressful sites escape drought stress through early flowering at the likely cost of biomass production. We conclude that precise habitat characterization facilitates the study of specific adaptation over relatively short geographic distances. This is particularly pertinent today because many of the key crop production system stresses (i.e., terminal drought, the impact of climate change) can be modelled climatically to identify potentially-adapted germplasm from ex situ and in situ collections.


Adaptation Chickpea Cicer judaicum Ecophysiology Genetic resources Habitat characterization 



Roi Ben David acknowledges stipend support from the Israeli Gene Bank. Thanks are due to the Nava Eshed, Raphael Frankel and Dan Danziger Foundations for further stipend assistance. Jens Berger would like to acknowledge generous research funding support from the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST). Dr. Steven Milroy is thanked for his valuable suggestions on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Robert H. Smith Institute of Plant Science and Genetics in Agriculture, The Levi Eshkol School of AgricultureThe Hebrew University of JerusalemRehovotIsrael
  2. 2.CSIRO Plant IndustryWembleyAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural SciencesThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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