Decoding of the Pigeonpea (Arhar) Genome by Indian Scientists

How is Arhar genome going to benefit the Indian farmers and general public?

Presently, India is importing about 3 million tones of pulses at cost of about Rs. 7000  crores every year.  The large demand supply gap has led to soaring prices of Dal and food inflation. 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 on the farmer’s field and lower prices of Dal in the market for the general public.

What is the Arhar genome project about?

The Arhar genome project was initiated under Indo-US AKI to generate all kinds of genomic resources in pigeonpea including EST sequences, trait mapping populations, mutant lines, BAC libraries, information databases and finally the complete physical map of the genome.  Knowledge of location of each and every gene in the genome will help faster discovery of genes for important agronomic traits such as yield, disease resistance, insect resistance, water logging tolerance and breeding of improved variety of Arhar similar to rice and wheat.

Who funded the Arhar genome project?

The project was supported for four years (2005-06 to 2009-10) through the Education Division of ICAR. For the last two years (2010-11 and 2011-12) the project is being supported by the Crop Science Division of ICAR under NPTC project (Functional Genomics Component).  The total cost of generating the first draft of Arhar genome sequence, including the support to AKI partners for arhar genomics resources has been about Rs. 11 crores over the last six years.  ICAR is now putting heavy emphasis on the genomics of important indigenous crop plants untouched by the global genomics research.

 What was the role of ICRISAT and USA in the Arhar genome project?

Dr. R.K. Varshney from ICRISAT Hyderabad supported by ICAR and GCP projects and Prof. Dough Cook from University of California, Davis USA, supported by an NSF grant were involved in the first phase of the Indo-US AKI project in generating EST resources and BAC-end sequences and SSR markers but after the conclusion of Indo-US AKI in 2009-10, they have not been associated with the Indian Arhar genome sequencing network.

What is the basic genetic information on Arhar?

Number of chromosomes 11 pairs
Genome size (Physical) 858 Mb (million base pairs)
Genome size (Genetic) 1057 cM (centi Morgan)

How are plants different from animals in terms of total number of genes?

Plants seem to have higher number of genes than animals mainly due to genome duplications (polyploidy), but they also perform additional biological functions of converting solar energy to chemical energy and non-living matter into organic compounds.  Also they need a large number of defense genes to survive in the open nature as they cannot run away. Animals on the other hand have more number of genes for highly developed senses and locomotion related functions. For defense they are able created more proteins from less number of genes due to post transcriptional processing of antibody genes.