Characterization and Evaluation of Genetic Resources of Minor Pulses for Crop Improvement

By tapping the diversity in genebanks, minor pulses can have a major impact on the quality of diets and livelihoods.

Urd bean (Vigna mungo)

Start date: 1 November 2018
End date: 31 October 2021

Mungbean (Vigna radiata), urd bean (V. mungo), rice bean (V. umbellata), moth bean (V. aconitifolia) and cowpea (V. unguiculata) are among the  most important domesticated species of the genus Vigna grown in India as well as several other Asian and African countries, Australia, West Indies, and South and North America. Horse gram (Macrotyloma uniflorum), another hardy legume crop, is native to South Asia and is the fifth most widely cultivated grain legume in India. These crops are important components of human diets (consumed as split pulses and dry seeds, and green pods as vegetables) as well as animal feed (grain and fodder), and are used as green manures. They are rich in proteins, important minerals and vitamins, and therefore are important for nutritional security, livelihoods, and sustenance of farming communities.

Due to a short life cycle, these are suitable catch crops that fit well in intercropping, mixed, or relay cropping systems.

Despite development of several improved cultivars of different Vigna crops, biotic and abiotic stresses still constrain their true yield potential. Many varieties of minor pulses have agronomically undesirable attributes such as asynchronous flowering and maturity, indeterminate growth habit, the presence of anti-nutritional components, etc.

The proposed project aims to characterize available germplasm accessions at India’s National Bureau of Plant Genetic Research (ICAR-NBPGR) for six important minor pulses including mungbean (V. radiata); urd bean (V. mungo), rice bean (V. umbellata), moth bean (V. acontifolia), cowpea (V. unguiculata) and horse gram (Macrotyloma uniflorum) using agromorphological traits at two different locations and biochemical traits based on NIR spectra. The available germplasm of minor pulses will be genotyped using a Genotyping x Sequencing (GBS) approach and the resulting SNPs will be used for the development of a core set of germplasm accessions representing genetic diversity. The composite cores for each crop will be evaluated in four different agroecological regions for agromorphological traits, biochemical traits (nutritional as well as anti-nutritional factors), Mungbean yellow mosaic disease, insect pests (whitefly, bruchids, root knot nematodes) and abiotic stress (waterlogging). The core set will be made available to partners in the consortium for GBS. Genome-wide association studies would be undertake with the phenotyping data available from this project and genotyping data from the partner centers.

To capture genes for disease and insect pest resistance in wild species , wide hybridization would be undertaken comprising minor pulses and their wild relatives in primary and secondary gene pools. Introgression of desirable traits in the cultivated species would be attempted. These efforts will help substantially in tapping the genetic diversity available at ICAR-NBPGR  for genetic improvement of cultivated and wild species of minor pulses.

Government of India, New Delhi

National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana

University of Agricultural Sciences, GKVK, Bangalore

Chaudhary Sarwan Kumar Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishvavidyalaya (CSK Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University), Palampur

V. N. Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth (Agricultural Research Station), Badnapur

Indian Council of Agricultural Research – Central Arid Zone Research Institute (ICAR-CAZRI), Jodhpur

World Vegetable Center, Hyderabad

Project countries

Horse gram (Macrotyloma uniflorum)

Mungbean (Vigna radiata)

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