Source: SyFy – 27 November 2021

A recent study carried out by Rajeev Varshney from the Center of Excellence in Genomics and Systems Biology at the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and colleagues looked at the genome of chickpeas in hopes of finding a way to build a better food crop. Their findings were published in the journal Nature.

They didn’t just look at one kind of chickpea. Instead, the work analyzed more than 3,366 varieties of the plant — 3,171 cultivated species and 195 wild species — in order to get a full picture of genetic diversity. They created a pan-genome which describes genetic diversity across cultivated species and their wild source plants.

“It was a long journey from inception in 2014,” Varshney told SYFY WIRE. “This was the first effort of its kind across any crop. It took about three years for us to generate all of the data and then three to four years for data analysis and interpretation.”

The work, though daunting, resulted in the identification of 29,870 total genes, including 1,582 which had not been reported before. This analysis identified beneficial genes as well as detrimental mutations which result in less successful plants and lower crop yields.

That data was then delivered to the University of Queensland where it was analyzed by an artificial intelligence called FastStack, which is specialized for designing new varieties of plants and crops with an eye toward optimal output.