KOLKATA, 3 NOV: A team of scientists (not economists) has found what might be a solution to the rising prices of pulses in the country.
Thirty-one scientists from various agricultural institutes have found the genome of arhar, the second most important pulse crop of India.
The decoding of arhar genome has unfolded its complete genetic information content which will help faster development of high-yielding, disease-resistant and insect-resistant varieties of arhar for higher productivity in the farmer’s field and lower the prices of pulses in the market for the people, said Dr Swapan Kumar Dutta, deputy director of Indian Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR), New Delhi in Kolkata today on the sidelines of a seminar.
The availability of the arhar genome sequence will accelerate development of new varieties and hybrids with enhanced productivity by making use of germplasm resources, in a way similar to the rice genome experience.
The average pulse crop productivity in India has remained low at about 650 kg per hectare for the past six decades leading to soaring dal prices with increasing demands. Lack of high-yielding, disease and pest-resistant varieties is a major factor for stagnant pulse productivity, Dr Dutta added.
Slow progress in breeding high-yielding arhar varieties was attributed to a dearth of genetic information, he said.
The scientists have identified 47,004 protein-coding genes in the arhar genome, of which 1,213 genes are for disease resistance and 152 genes for tolerance to drought, heat and salinity that make it a hardy crop, especially in the wake of climate change and skewed weather pattern.
At present India is importing about 3 million tons of pulses at a cost of about Rs 7,000 crore every year. The large demand-supply gap has led to soaring prices of dal and food inflation.
About 85 per cent of the world’s pigeon pea is produced and consumed in India where it is a key crop for food and nutritional security of the people. India imports pigeon pea from Myanmar which is the second largest producer.
The total cost of generating the first draft of arhar genome sequence has been about Rs 11 crore over the past six years. Institutes involved in the research were National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology (NRCPB), New Delhi; Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi; Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), Kanpur; Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi; Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth, Akola, Maharashtra and University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Karnataka.