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McKnight Foundation
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Chickpea, the major pulse grown in India, is a significant source of protein for this primarily vegetarian population, and is also important because of its nitrogen fixing and soil conditioning properties. Chickpea production is limited by its susceptibility to diseases, pests and water stress, making it a high risk crop for the mostly subsistent farmers who grow it. Improvement of chickpea production in India is limited by the lack of scientific infrastructure which includes the lack of expertise in biotechnological improvement strategies, lack of genetic transformation technology and, absence of a developed genetic map due to the low genetic diversity in cultivated chickpea lines. This program addresses these problems by a combination of training and research between scientists of the National Chemical Laboratory, India and Washington State University. Young Indian scientists will be trained in theoretical and practical applications of modern plant molecular genetics and biochemistry, a strength at WSU. Training will focus on research projects aimed at improving chickpea productivity through molecular genetic alteration of seed characteristics and enhancement of resistance to pests and stress. Concurrent with this training will be programs on mapping of the chickpea genome and development of wide hybridization protocols. Genome mapping will allow identification of resistance genes and genotypes which will greatly facilitate plant breeding programs, and wide hybridization will allow the transfer of genes from wild species having desirable characteristics. Development of improved chickpea varieties is important to feeding the growing Indian population and to the success of the subsistent Indian farmer.