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New chickpea variety shows improved pest-resistance

By Country News

New research by the University of Southern Queensland has uncovered a new variety of pest-resistance chickpeas that could soon call Australia home.

Supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, the project has investigated a new collection of wild chickpea species from Turkey found to be more resistant to tiny worm-like pests — known as root lesion nematodes — than Australian chickpeas.

Rebecca Zwart from USQ’s Centre for Crop Health said the world-first investigation had the potential to greatly benefit Australian chickpea and wheat growers.

“Root-lesion nematode cause major damage to chickpea and wheat crops,” Dr Zwart said.

“Even when resistant varieties are planted, these nematodes can survive in the soil.

“So, while a farmer might grow a resistant variety or crop in a couple of seasons, if they plant a susceptible variety then those nematodes activate with a new food source and the populations build up over again.

“That’s why it is important for farmers to have resistant varieties for all the crops that they grow.”

Fellow project researcher Roslyn Reen said about 30 per cent of the wild chickpea species from Turkey were found to be significantly more resistant to root-lesion nematodes than the least susceptible Australian chickpea variety.

“Chickpea itself doesn’t have a diverse gene pool to work with so looking to its relatives for clues is important, and our research has shown that there are two wild species, that can be crossed with commercial grown chickpea varieties to offer greater nematode resistance,” Mrs Reen said.

“The next step will be looking for the genes that cause resistance in these wild chickpea species and tagging them with molecular markers.

“In this way, the new resistance genes can be tracked through the breeding process to ensure that when the wild relatives are crossed with chickpea they pass on the resistance genes through the family tree to future Australian chickpea varieties.

“Having more effective genes for resistance will protect chickpea crops from yield loss as well as reduce residual populations of root-lesion nematode in the soil.

“Long term we’d hope this results in more flexible farming rotations with other crops to allow for increased profit and opportunities for Australian farmers.”