ICRISAT’s plant health researchers mine genes to defend chickpea against a deadly pathogen
In their battle against dry root rot (DRR) of chickpea, a devastating fungal disease emerging as a major threat in India, researchers at ICRISAT have recently zeroed in on a few promising set of genes that play a key role in the plant’s defense. The team led by Dr Mamta Sharma, who in their previous findings had affirmed the role of abiotic stresses in DRR incidence, have now explained the phenomenon at the molecular level. The team has found the involvement of endochitinase and PR-3-type chitinase (CHI III) genes in delaying the progression of DRR.
DRR is caused by Rhizoctonia bataticola, a soil-borne fungus that kills plant tissues and uses the dead matter to sustain itself. Such pathogens are termed necrotrophic. R bataticola is known to infect a wide range of plant species. While Fusarium wilt in chickpea has traditionally been the concern of plant health experts, DRR has emerged over the past decade as a major threat in the heart of India’s chickpea producing regions – the central and southern states.