Two research groups at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) studying the physical and molecular manifestations of increasing carbon dioxide (CO 2) on certain crops have found that the gas significantly and negatively alters chickpea under stressed conditions.
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An overview of all three facilities within the Centre of Excellence on global climate change Research for Plant Protection(CoE-CCRPP). (Source: ICRISAT)
In a world where greenhouse emission emissions, mainly CO2 , are on the increase , can the crops that ensure food and nutrition security remain unaffected? a gaggle of researchers at a Hyderabad-based premier crop research institute have made findings that suggest not. Underscoring the matter , their findings also shed light on the answer .
Two research groups at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) studying the physical and molecular manifestations of accelerating CO2 (CO 2) on certain crops have found that the gas significantly and negatively alters chickpea under stressed conditions. Chickpea or channa, is a crucial legume crop and a staple protein source in India and lots of other parts of the planet .
For their study, researchers at ICRISAT’s Center of Excellence in global climate change Research for Plant Protection, led by Dr Mamta Sharma, cultivated two popular sorts of chickpea (desi chickpea JG 11 and kabuli chickpea KAK 2) in ambient conditions (380 ppm, the present ambient CO 2 level) and under two higher levels of 550 ppm and 700 ppm to worry the plants and mimic rising levels within the world.
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Following the first impressive growth, the scientists observed that the plants began to demonstrate negative effects as they aged. The changes within the stressed plants made for a stark contrast with those of an equivalent age that were grown in ambient conditions, they observed. The leaves, roots and shoots of plants grew faster under stressed conditions but quickly lost green-ness and shed leaves. This also meant that the crop lost its chlorophyll content sooner, implying lesser yield and lesser food.
To understand and correlate the changes at a chemical and molecular level, a second team of researchers from ICRISAT’s Center of Excellence in Genomics and Systems Biology, led by Dr Rajeev Varshney, performed organic phenomenon studies on samples of the stressed crops. They found that the expression of as many as 18,644 genes within the stressed plants was different compared to the traditional expression of those genes in plants grown under ambient conditions.
These different expressions, mentioned scientifically as Differentially Expressed Genes (DEGs), suggested that several important metabolic pathways associated with sugar metabolism, chlorophyll metabolism and therefore the plant’s defense mechanism were adversely affected in ways in which accelerated senescence or aging.
The findings of the study were recently published within the paper ‘Molecular and Physiological Alterations in Chickpea under Elevated CO 2 Concentrations’, within the journal Plant & Cell Physiology. The study’s first author is Dr Paramita Palit, a former research scientist in Dr Varshney’s team at ICRISAT.
Armed with the findings, the researchers now believe they need taken an enormous leap towards developing a climate-smart variant of chickpea.
Dr Varshney, a noted plant geneticist and a molecular breeding expert, says that 550 ppm and 700 ppm of CO 2 concentrations might be the scenario during a few decades or more and therefore the question was if chickpea would survive those conditions. “We wanted to first understand the changes in chickpea at high levels of CO 2 and which genes are affected. Should we develop chickpea varieties for such stressed levels, it should still be ready to give an equivalent or better yield.”
“We found that different metabolic pathways are adversely affected at 700 ppm level within the reproductive phase resulting in reduced yield. we’ve identified several underlying genes. We now know the various pathways where these genes are affected,” he said.
“The question is” he added, “can we develop new sorts of chickpea that, even at higher CO 2 levels, aren’t affected, produce more food and still give farmers good yield?”
“Yes,” he emphatically answered, “and it’ll be challenging.”