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Can a speed breeding approach accelerate genetic gain in pigeonpea?


Pure line breeding is a resource-intensive activity that takes 10 years or more to develop a new cultivar. In some crops, conducting off-season nurseries has significantly reduced the length of the breeding cycle. This approach could not be exploited in pigeonpea [Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.], because traditionally it has been a photoperiod-sensitive crop that requires long periods of darkness to induce flowering. However, the recent success of breeding early maturing photoperiod-insensitive genotypes has opened up the possibility of adopting ‘speed breeding’ techniques to enable rapid generation turnover. This paper outlines a speed breeding approach that integrates the use of immature seed germination for rapid generation advancement and a “single pod descent” method of breeding. To accelerate line development, while conserving genetic variability, the approach permits four generations per year and can fast-track field evaluation of resulting homozygous lines. Therefore, the breeding strategy conserves resources and has potential to deliver new early maturing cultivars within a substantially reduced timeframe of 4–5 years.

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Authors are thankful to the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India; United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Department of Biotechnology, Government of India; Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka and ICRISAT for funding various research activities in pigeonpea. This work has been undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC). ICRISAT is a member of CGIAR Consortium.

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Correspondence to K. B. Saxena or R. K. Saxena.

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Saxena, K.B., Saxena, R.K., Hickey, L.T. et al. Can a speed breeding approach accelerate genetic gain in pigeonpea?. Euphytica 215, 202 (2019).

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  • Early maturing cultivars
  • Immature seed germination
  • Pigeonpea
  • Rapid generation turnover
  • Single pod descent method