Experimental Chickpeas Fend off Caterpillar
Pest By Jan
Suszkiw August 25, 2009
Chickpeas, high in protein, fiber and other nutrients, are important
legume crops the world over. But humans aren't the only consumers: the larval
stage of the beet armyworm moth likes to eat the crop's leaves.
But new lines of resistant chickpeas developed by
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists and their collaborators could put the kibosh on this crop-damaging
pest's voracious appetite, and potentially save on chemical insecticides used
to fight it.
The so-called "CRIL-7" chickpeas were conventionally bred from a cross
between wild and cultivated species by a team of scientists from the ARS
Germplasm Introduction and Testing Research Station in Pullman, Wash.;
Washington State University's
Department of Horticulture and Landscape
Architecture, also in Pullman; and the International Crops Research Institute for the
Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Patancheru, India.
Clement led the project under a three-year grant from the
U.S. Agency for International Development
that concluded in December 2008. The Pullman lab was an apt choice because of
its scientific expertise and extensive collection of desi and kabuli chickpeas
from around the world.
Fred Muehlbauer, now retired from ARS, crossed the wild species
Cicer reticulatum, known for its broad insect resistance, with the
susceptible cultivar FLIP 84-92C. From seven generations of offspring plants,
Clement selected 42 lines offering the best combination of agronomic
characteristics and resistance to the beet armyworm, a major pest in India,
which in 2005 led the world in chickpea production with 6.6 billion tons.
In 2006-07 greenhouse trials, 28 to 62 percent of beet armyworms that
fed on the leaves of resistant chickpeas died within a few days of hatching
from eggs. The surviving worms were smaller and shorter than usual. The CRIL-7s
outperformed commercial cultivars used for comparison of resistance, but still
require agronomic testing under field conditions as the next step towards
commercialization, adds Clement.
Clement co-authored a paper reporting the discovery of resistance in
the Journal of
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of