In a first of its kind experiment to identify specific trait from country's huge genetic resources, National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) has characterised more than 5000 varieties of wheat germplasms for development of better seed varieties which could withstand climate change issues.
The national seed bank which operates under NBPGR, has more than four lakh accessions out of which around 1.2 lakh belongs to only rice and wheat varieties.
Top agricultural scientists associated with the charasterisation drive say that the purpose was to help breeder in providing them with large genetic variability which helps in quality seed development. Out of 5000 accessions, more than 3000 have been found to contain traits which help in development of seed which are resilient to climate change.
“Through characterisation seed breeder would be able to develop wheat varieties which could deal with diseases like yellow rust which is major threat to whet crop in the country,” KC Bansal, director, NBPGR, told FE. The national gene bank would also take up characterisation of of genes for other crops such as oilseeds and vegetables shortly.
India has achieved higher wheat production in the last few years has largely been attributed to favourable weather and significant rise in minimum support price, but a big factor also has been the virtual absence of any threatening crop disease, particularly the dreaded Ug99, commonly known as yellow rust.
The disease—which destroyed large swathes of wheat crop in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Yemen, Sudan and Iran—was a real danger for Indian wheat crop few years back.
However, Ug99 has been successfully restricted. As many 22 wheat lines or varieties including PBW550, DBW17 and LOK1 have been developed by Karnal based Directorate of Wheat Research (DWR) and other state government owned agencies have been found to be resistance to Ug99.
“Such characterisation drive would help in development of seeds which are resilient to climate change as well as pest attacks,” Bansal said.
NBPGR has collected genes of around 1,500 crop species, including ornamental, oilseeds and medicinal. But majority of them, which are critical to food and nutritional security will be around 15-20. The bureau has prioritised 15 categories - rice, wheat, maize, pearl millet, finger millet, chick pea, piso pea, mustard, okra, brinjal, mango etc for gene preservation initiatives.
Out of the total collection of germplasm, about 90,000 will be rice varieties. Others include wheat (25,000), vegetables (24,000), total oilseeds (55,000) and pulses