Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Viewpoint: Evolution of cultivated chickpea: four bottlenecks limit diversity and constrain adaptation

Shahal Abbo, Jens Berger and Neil C. Turner

Functional Plant Biology 30(10) 1081 - 1087
Published: 20 October 2003


Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) is characterised by a different adaptation profile from the other crops of West Asian origin such as pea, barley, and wheat. In this paper we suggest that a series of four evolutionary bottlenecks occur in chickpea: (1) the scarcity and limited distribution of the wild progenitor, C. reticulatum Ladiz., (2) the founder effect associated with domestication, (3) the shift, early in the crop's history, from winter to spring sowing, and the attendant change from using rainfall as it occurs to a reliance on residual soil moisture, and (4) the replacement of locally evolving landraces by elite cultivars produced by modern plant breeding. While two of the bottlenecks are common to all species, the limited distribution of the wild progenitor and shift of cropping from utilisation of current rainfall to stored soil moisture is unique to chickpea. In this paper we suggest that in order to widen the genetic base of cultivated chickpea it is imperative to reintroduce traits from across the primary gene pool. Moreover, a comparative physiological approach to the study of adaptation among the annual wild relatives of chickpea may reveal adaptive strategies within the genus currently obscured by monomorphic loci. The poor state of the world collection of annual wild Cicer species severely constrains the implementation of both these imperatives. We suggest that an extensive collection of annual wild Cicer species, based on ecogeographic principles to maximise the probability of collecting diverse ecotypes, should provide a better understanding of the biology and adaptation in this ancient crop and lead to improved productivity.

Keywords: annual wild Cicer, C. arietinum, C. reticulatum, crop evolution, physiological adaptation.

© CSIRO 2003

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