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Improving chickpea yield by incorporating resistance to ascochyta blight


Ascochyta blight [Ascochyta rabiei (Pass.) Lab.] is the most destructive disease of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.), but it can be managed effectively by the use of resistant cultivars. Therefore, a breeding programme was initiated during 1977–78 at ICARDA, Syria, to breed blight-resistant, high-yielding chickpeas with other desirable agronomic traits. Crosses were made in main season at Tel Hadya, Syria, and the F1s were grown in the off season at Terbol, Lebanon. The F2, F4 and F5 generations were grown in a blight nursery in the main season where blight epidemic was artificially created. The plants and progenies were scored for blight resistance and other traits. The F3 and F6 generations were grown in the off season under normal day length to eliminate late-maturing plants. The pedigree method of breeding was followed initially, but was later replaced by the F4-derived family method. The yield assessment began with F7 lines, first at ICARDA sites and later internationally. A total of 1584 ascochyta blight-resistant chickpea lines were developed with a range of maturity, plant height, and seed size not previously available to growers in the blight-endemic areas in the Mediterranean region. These included 92 lines resistant to six races of the ascochyta pathogen, and 15 large-seeded and 28 early maturity lines. New cultivars produced 33% more seed yield than the original resistant sources. The yield of chickpea declined by 340 kg ha-1, with an increase in blight severity by one class on a 1–9 scale, reaching zero yield with the 8 and 9 classes. Development of blight-resistant lines made the introduction of winter sowing possible in the Mediterranean region with the prospect of doubling chickpea production. Twenty three cultivars have been released so far in 11 countries.

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Communicated by J. MacKey

Joint contribution from ICARDA and ICRISAT. ICRISAT Journal Article no. JA 1886.

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Singh, K.B., Reddy, M.V. Improving chickpea yield by incorporating resistance to ascochyta blight. Theoret. Appl. Genetics 92, 509–515 (1996).

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Key words

  • Chickpea
  • Cicer arietinum
  • Disease resistance
  • Ascochyta blight
  • Breeding