Conservation of chickpea genetic resources

Contributors to this page: ICRISAT, Patancheru, India (Hari D Upadhyaya, Shivali Sharma, Cholenahalli L Laxmipathi Gowda, Dintyala Sastry, Sube Singh); NBPGR, New Delhi, India (Shyam Sharma); ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria (Ahmed Amri, Kenneth Street, Natalya Rukhkyan), SARC-RIPP, Piestany, Slovak Republic (Gabriela Antalikova); Institute of Plant Genetic Resources ‘K.Malkov’, Sadovo, Bulgaria (Siyka Stoyanova); Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Australia (Bob Redden); IPK, Gatersleben, Germany (Andreas Börner).

Importance of chickpea conservation

Archeological chickpea remains found from Syria to Greece dating from the very early days of farming show its important role in the dispersal of farming habits. Like many other crops, it has been subjected to different selection pressures in various ecological and cultural environments and consequently diversified into a range of varieties. It is likely that chickpea has a higher potential to yield more than the yields currently achieved on farmers’ fields. This potential can only be fully utilized if a broad range of genetic materials are available to select from or to breed for specific traits. Therefore, breeding for higher and more stable yields and also for enhanced resistance to pests and diseases is one of the immediate objectives of many chickpea programmes.

Chickpea seed diversity (photo: ICRISAT)

Chickpea diversity of pods (photo: ICRISAT)

Chickpea germplasm diversity in the field (photo: ICRISAT)


A chickpea genebank (photo: ICRISAT)

Major chickpea collections

Chickpea collections include landraces, breeding material and wild species. It is estimated that more than 80 000 accessions are conserved in more than 30 genebanks worldwide. The genebank at ICRISAT Patancheru, India, is one of the largest genebanks holding >20 000 accessions of chickpea from 60 countries. Other major collections (more than 5000 accessions) are held at NBPGR, New Delhi, India; ICARDA Aleppo, Syria; Australian temperate field crops collection, Victoria, Australia; USDA, USA and the Seed and Plant Improvement Institute, Iran.

It was only after 1970 that wild Cicer species were actively collected. Currently there is a reasonable number of wild annual species but still limited availability of perennial species. Less than 1% of the Cicer accessions (conserved in about tengenebanks worldwide) represent wild species. The ICRISAT genebank holds 308 accessions belonging to 18 species of wild Cicer from 14 countries.

References and further reading

Abbo S, Redden RJ, Yadav SS. 2007. Utilization of wild relatives. In: Yadav SS, Redden R, Chen W, Sharma B, editors. Chickpea Breeding & Management. CABI, Wallingford, UK. pp 338-354.

Chickpea [online]. Available from URL: Date accessed: 29 January 2010.

FAO/IPGRI. 1994. Genebank standards. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome and International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome. Available in English, Spanish, French and Arabic.

Global Crop Diversity Trust. 2008. Global strategy for the ex situ conservation of chickpea (Cicer L.) [online]. Available from: Date accessed: 25 May 2009.

IBPGR, ICRISAT, ICARDA. 1993. Descriptors for Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.). International Board for Plant Genetic Resources, Rome, Italy; International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Patancheru, India and International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, Aleppo, Syria. ISBN 92-9043-137-7. Available here.

ICRISAT Chickpea Germplasm Collection Reports. Genetic Resources Unit, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Patancheru, A.P. 502 324, India. GRU – Progress Reports – 20 no’s.

ICRISAT Chickpea collection. SINGER [online]. Available from Date accessed: 30 January 2010.

Hanson J. 1985. Procedures for handling seeds in genebanks. Practical manuals for genebanks no. 1. International Board for Plant Genetic Resources.[showUid]=2235.

Jambunathan R, Singh U, Subramanian V. 1981. Grain quality of sorghum, pearl millet, pigeonpea and chickpea. In: Proceedings of a workshop held at International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Patancheru-502 324, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Singh KB, Pundir RPS, Robertson LD, van Rheene HA, Singh U, Kelley TJ, Rao PP, Johansen C, Saxena NP. 1997. Chickpea. In: Fuccillo D, Sears L, Stapleton P, editors. Biodiversity in Trust. Cambridge University Press. pp. 100-113.

Rao NK, Hanson J, Dulloo ME, Ghosh K, Nowel D, Larinde M. 2006. Manual of seed handling in genebanks. Handbooks for Genebanks No. 8. Bioversity International, Rome, Italy. Available in English (1.5 MB),  Spanish (1.4 MB) and French (1.9 MB).

Redden B, Furman BJ, Upadhyaya HD, Pundir RPS, Gowda CLL, Coyne C, Enneking D. 2007. Biodiversity Management in Chickpea. In: Yadav SS, Redden R, Chen W, Sharma B, editors. Chickpea Breeding & Management. CABI, Wallingford, UK. pp 355-368.

Upadhyaya HD, Gowda CLL, Sastry DVSSR. 2008. Management of germplasm collections and enhancing their use by mini core and molecular approaches. APEC-ATCWG Workshop. Capacity building for risk management systems on genetic resources. pp. 35-70.

Upadhyaya HD, Gowda CLL, Sastry DVSSR. 2008. Plant genetic resources management: collection, characterization, conservation and utilization. Journal of SAT Agricultural Research 6.

Upadhyaya HD, Laxmipathi Gowda CL. 2009. Managing and Enhancing the Use of Germplasm – Strategies and Methodologies. Technical Manual no. 10. Patancheru 502 324, Andhra Pradesh, India: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics. 236 pp.

The Genebanks

The 11 CGIAR genebanks currently conserve 730,000 of cereals and grain legumes, forage crops, tree species, root and tuber crops, bananas and crop wild relatives.