New Chickpea Variety Developed

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Indian scientists have developed a new drought-tolerant chickpea variety.


  • The development of the new chickpea variety is a collaborative effort of scientists from National Institute of Plant Genome Research, New Delhi, University of Hyderabad and Indian Institute of Pulses Research.
  • The new variety is a genetically modified variety.
  • It has a high tolerance to drought and has high iron and zinc content in the seeds due to the modifications made in the plant’s growth substance called cytokinin in the root.
  • Cytokinin and Auxin are two major plant hormones that regulate root development.
  • In the new variety, scientists expressed a gene for an enzyme called cytokinin oxidase 6 (CKX6).
  • This enzyme degrades cytokinin under a root-specific promoter (P WRKY31) in chickpea.
  • Researchers found that limiting the cytokinin activity led to roots growing deep in the soil and acquiring more water and nutrients from the soil during drought.
  • As such, the plants acquired more resources from the soil, lived longer and produced more seeds.
  • Also, the result of this long and branched root system is high iron and zinc content in the seeds.
  • According to the scientists, yield loss in chickpea can be reduced by following this cytokinin-manipulated enhancement of root system combined with traditional breeding practices.

Threat of Genetic Modification

  • As per the researchers, the gene and promoter both were from the chickpea itself.
  • This means that there is no threat of genetic modification harming humans.
  • In many cases of genetic modifications in food crops across the world, genes from specific bacterial species were used.
  • This usage has led to many questioning the harmfulness of such food crops to human consumption.
  • In India too, there is a ban on genetically modified food crops.
  • Only Bt cotton, which is genetically modified with genes taken from bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is allowed for growing in the country.

Importance of Chickpea

  • Chickpea, also know as benga gram, is one of the major sources of protein for people in the country.
  • The crop is grown mainly in semi-arid regions post-monsoon season.
  • In such conditions, the crop faces the threat of drought and yields dropping.
  • There is thus a need for the development of drought-tolerant chickpea varieties with high yields.
  • The new variety well suits the prevailing chickpea cultivation conditions in the country and will help farmers earn better returns with high yields.
  • India already ranks first in the cultivation of Chickpea in the world.

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