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Pigeonpea Molecular Breeding Project Launched

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A US-Indian initiative to use molecular methods to improve pigeonpea breeding has been launched.

Called the Pigeonpea Improvement using Molecular Breeding project, the three-year, $2 million initiative seeks to use genomic tools to develop improved cultivars more efficiently.

The project is supported by the US Agency for International Development India Mission, and will be implemented by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India; the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources in New Delhi; the University of Agricultural Sciences in Karnataka, India; Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University in Hyderabad; and other partners in the US and India.

"The primary objective of the project is to translate genome information into the farmers' fields," Rajeev Varshney, project coordinator and director of the Center of Excellence in Genomics at ICRISAT, said in a statement. "The project team is quite confident and looks forward to working with different partners and stakeholders in enhancing pigeonpea crop productivity that will eventually help ensure food security in India and generate more incomes for farmers in Africa."

According to ICRISAT, pigeonpea is grown throughout Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South-Central America and is an important food legume for the poor in the semi-arid regions of the world. Molecular breeding methods have not been used for pigeonpea because of limited genetic diversity and the unavailability of genomic tools, ICRISAT said, but with the sequencing of the pigeonpea genome in 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, along with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and ICRISAT, began developing a plan using molecular breeding to improve pigeonpea.

Last year, ICRISAT and BGI announced they would use next-generation sequencing to improve the breeding of several crops, including pigeonpea.