Enhanced biotic-stress tolerance of pulses towards sustainable intensification of cropping systems for climate-change adaptation

Open for proposals

Project Type

Coordinated Research Project

Project Code




Approved Date

6 March 2019


Active - Ongoing

Start Date

13 June 2019

Expected End Date

12 June 2025

Participating Countries



Significantly enhanced crop productivity is crucial to the food security and nutrition of a growing global population and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. In developing nations, these productivity increases have been very slow or sometimes stagnant, and significant yield gaps still exist for many crops. Climate change further exacerbates this situation by causing serious production losses from rising temperatures, frequent droughts, flooding, and increasing incidence of pests and diseases. Sustainable intensification of cropping systems hence becomes increasingly imperative if we are to meet the rising demands for food and nutrition without adverse environmental footprints. Pulses, or grain legumes, because of their capacity to fix atmospheric nitrogen and to serve as cover crops, are important components of intercropping systems and crop rotations and play a key role in the sustainable intensification of crop production systems. As mixed crops or in rotation, pulses further provide the necessary diversity for resilience against shocks and crop failures. The more than a dozen pulse crops which are grown globally are mostly cultivated by smallholders for food and fodder. Their protein- and micronutrient-rich grain is a low-cost alternative to animal protein for low-income populations. The important contributions of pulses in sustainable agriculture and food systems were recognized in the declaration of the year 2016 as the International Year of Pulses by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The productivity of pulses is generally low in most developing countries, average yields ranging from about 0.5 to a little over 1 tonne per ha. Yields are reduced further by the incidence of several biotic and abiotic stresses. The fact that pulses are self-pollinated has led to a narrow genetic diversity in many of these crops. Mutation induction is an established means to generate heritable variation in crops and therefore holds great promise to diversify further the genetic base of pulses, enhancing their adaptation to the pressures of climate change, especially the frequent emergence of new biotypes and strains of pests and diseases. In the current proposal, we aim to use mutation induction and associated genomics technologies for productivity improvement of three pulses, namely, chickpea, cowpea and lentil, which together account for 40% of the global pulses production. The research focus is on enhancing the tolerances of chickpea to the pod borer, Helicoverpa armigera; cowpea to the bod borer, Maruca vitrata, and lentil to the disease, Stemphylium blight. Towards this end, the CRP, with the expected participation of the National Agricultural Research System of countries where the crops are grown extensively and the CGIAR centers with the respective mandates, shall over a period of four to five years, generate mutant populations, including advanced lines, and develop, validate and publish genotyping and phenotyping protocols.


To develop genetic resources through induced mutations and associated genomic tools for accelerated adaptation of pulses-based cropping systems to climate change.

Specific objectives

To generate genetic diversity in chickpea, cowpea and lentil through mutagenesis for resistance to Helicoverpa armigera, Maruca vitrata and Stemphylium botryosum, respectively.

To develop and/or refine phenotyping tools to facilitate precise (confident) and efficient selection of biotic-stress resistance in selected pulse crops.

To develop genomic tools for accelerated variety development for the selected pulse crops and associated traits of interest.

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