Pulse Crops for Sustainable Agriculture and Nutritional Security

Pulse or grain legume crops are important for soil health maintenance by enriching soil nitrogen status. Due to their high protein, dietary fibers and micronutrient contents, pulses constitute an important part of a balanced healthy diet. Therefore, pulse crops are central to sustainable agriculture, and food and nutritional security of humans. Although, India is largest producer, consumer and importer of pulses in the world, per capita per day availability of pulses in India is far below (47 g) the minimum recommended dose of 70 g per capita per day. To ensure sustainable pulse production under impeding climate change, pulse genetic diversity existing within the nature must be explored, and biotic and abiotic stress tolerant varieties must be developed.

Considering this, a major program on Pulse Genomics has been initiated with major emphasis on chickpea, lentil and horse gram. Genotypic variation in lentil with respect to drought tolerance was assessed using physiological, biochemical and molecular approaches, which identified genotypes GP3643 and IC248956 as drought tolerant and genotypes GP3690 as drought susceptible (Sinha et al., 2018, 2020). In order to understand the molecular regulatory mechanism of drought tolerance and susceptibility, gene expression profiling was conducted for which availability of stably expressed reference gene(s) is a pre-requisite. Expression stability of eight candidate reference genes was evaluated in five varieties of lentil at three different stages of leaf development and abiotic stress conditions using qRT-PCR. Statistical analysis using various software identified RPL2 as the most stably expressed gene under various abiotic stresses and leaf developmental stages (Sinha et al., 2019; Bala et al., 2020). Cicer microphyllum is the only species of genus Cicer, which is naturally adapted to harsh environmental conditions of high-altitude cold desert ecosystem. Considering the extraordinary stress tolerance of wild chickpea (C. microphyllum), transcriptome analysis under drought stress was carried out, which has identified some interesting genes and transcription factors (Gupta et al., 2017). Functional characterization of these genes may identify candidate genes for developing stress tolerant crops. In addition, we are also employing proteomics and phosphor-proteomics approaches to understand the basis of drought tolerance and identify important proteins in lentil and horse gram.

Related Publications

  1. Bala M, Sinha R, Mallick MA, Sharma TR, Singh AK (2020) Methods of gene expression profiling to understand abiotic stress perception and response in legume crops. Methods Mol Biol 2107: 99-126. Doi:10.1007/978-1-0716-0235-5_5.
  2. Gupta K, Sinha R, Singh AK (2017) Identification of drought-responsive genes in Cicer microphyllum using high-throughput sequencing. Poster presentation at InterDrought-V conference held at Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) during Feb. 21-25, 2017.
  3. Sinha R, Bala M, Kumar M, Sharma TR, Singh AK (2019) Methods for Screening Legume Crops for Abiotic Stress Tolerance through Physiological and Biochemical Approaches. Methods Mol Biol 2107. 277-303. doi. 10.1007/978-1-0716-0235-5_15.
  4. Sinha R, Pal AK, Singh AK (2018) Physiological, biochemical and molecular responses of lentil (Lens culinaris Medik.) genotypes under drought stress. Ind J Plant Physiol 23: 772-784.
  5. Sinha R, Sharma TR, Singh AK (2019) Validation of reference genes for qRT-PCR data normalisation in lentil (Lens culinaris) under leaf developmental stages and abiotic stresses. Physiol Mole Biol Plants 25: 123-134.