World's largest drought resistance experiment on chickpeas under way at UWA

August 14, 2014
World’s largest drought resistance experiment on chickpeas under way at UWA

Researchers from The University of Western Australia's Institute of Agriculture are conducting the world's largest chickpea experiment on drought resistance.

Led by Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique, the project aims to understand how chickpea adapts to terminal drought, which is experienced in most seasons in southern Australia. Drought is an important limiting factor in achieving higher, stable yields and thus greater profitability.

Based on results from previous research in the field with a wide range of germplasm, 10 lines of chickpea with similar flowering times were selected for preliminary studies. These lines were used to investigate physiological and biochemical mechanisms for adaptation to terminal drought in the UWA glasshouse.

Plants were grown in 80L wheelie bins, each containing 105kg of field soil from a site in Cunderdin, Western Australia. Growing chickpea in the large bins simulated conditions in the field more closely and also enabled soil moisture to last longer once watering is withheld.

A specially designed balance with a maximum capacity of 200kg and an accuracy of 10g had to be built for the experiment.

"This allows us to control water accurately and monitor soil water content closely after water stress," Professor Siddique said. "We are the first group in Australia to use this system which mimics the field situation."

Chickpea is globally one of the most important grain legumes and is now the largest grain legume crop in Australia. There is huge demand for the protein-rich crop in India, a nation that has the world's largest population of vegetarians.

"Australia is amongst the significant exporters of chickpea to India, but the amount we produce is limited by drought that is endemic in most of the dryland areas of Australia," Professor Siddique said. "This research will help us to understand the physiology, biochemistry and genetics behind in chickpea, and develop screening tools for breeders to select varieties that are best suited for regions where water is limited."

The ten lines will be studied for detailed physiological and associated with drought resistance, including leaf water potential, gas exchange characteristics, seed filling rate, the role of abscisic acid (a hormone closely related to ) and key enzymes in seed development. Preliminary gene expression studies related to drought resistance will be done in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University.

Explore further: Salt-tolerant chickpea project to boost crop production

Related Stories

New chickpeas set to revive Australian pulse industry

September 13, 2012

Two new varieties of chickpea developed by researchers at The University of Western Australia are expected to take the Indian market by storm and turn the tide for an industry that has struggled to recover from a devastating ...

Geneticist breeds new hope for chickpeas

October 14, 2013

Eric von Wettberg, professor in the FIU Department of Biological Sciences, has received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the effects of domestication on wild chickpea genes.

Recommended for you

Secrets of a heat-loving microbe unlocked

September 4, 2015

Scientists studying how a heat-loving microbe transfers its DNA from one generation to the next say it could further our understanding of an extraordinary superbug.

Plants also suffer from stress

September 4, 2015

High salt in soil dramatically stresses plant biology and reduces the growth and yield of crops. Now researchers have found specific proteins that allow plants to grow better under salt stress, and may help breed future generations ...

Ancient walnut forests linked to languages, trade routes

September 4, 2015

If Persian walnut trees could talk, they might tell of the numerous traders who moved along the Silk Roads' thousands of miles over thousands of years, carrying among their valuable merchandise the seeds that would turn into ...

Huddling rats behave as a 'super-organism'

September 3, 2015

Rodents huddle together when it is cold, they separate when it is warm, and at moderate temperatures they cycle between the warm center and the cold edges of the group. In a new study published in PLOS Computational Biology, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.