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Indian scientists decode factors causing DRR disease in chickpea crop

“Dry root rot (DRR) disease causes reduced vigour, dull green leaf colour, poor new growth, and twig dieback. If extensive root damage occurs, the leaves suddenly wilt and dry on the tree. The increasing global average temperature is leading to appearance of many new plant disease-causing pathogens at a rate hitherto unheard of, one of them being Macrophomina phaseolina, a soil-borne necrotrophic that causes root rot in chickpea,” the government note explained.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

In their search for a solution to be combat-ready to deal with a future epidemic scenario in chickpea crop, Indian scientists have found that high-temperature drought conditions and low soil moisture content provide the ideal conditions for the growth of harmful dry root rot or DRR disease, responsible for damaging chickpea crop in India.

Quoting scientists, a Ministry of Science and Technology note here stated on Thursday that the study by Indian scientists would be ‘useful for the development of resistant lines and better management strategies’ to combat the issue of chickpea crop damage.

At present, the central and southern states of India have been identified as the prime chickpea DRR hotspots accounting for overall 5 to 35 per cent incidences of the disease.

“Dry root rot (DRR) disease causes reduced vigour, dull green leaf colour, poor new growth, and twig dieback. If extensive root damage occurs, the leaves suddenly wilt and dry on the tree. The increasing global average temperature is leading to appearance of many new plant disease-causing pathogens at a rate hitherto unheard of, one of them being Macrophomina phaseolina, a soil-borne necrotrophic that causes root rot in chickpea,” the government note explained.

The research team, led by Mamta Sharma at ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) embarked on a mission to ‘unravel the science behind DRR in chickpea.’ The team identified that high temperatures ranging between 30 to 35 degrees, drought conditions, and less than 60 per cent soil moisture content are favorable conditions for dry root rot (DRR) disease.

This research work was supported and funded by the Department of Science and  Technology. The Center of Excellence in Climate Change at ICRISAT proved the close association of DRR disease with climatic factors. The results have been published in ‘Frontiers in Plant Science’.

In chickpea, DRR is highly prevalent during the flowering and budding stages coinciding with high temperature and drought conditions. The scientists are now exploring ways to use the study for development of resistant lines and better management strategies.

In a recent breakthrough in gene expression studies, scientists have identified a few promising chickpea genes encoding for enzymes like chitinase and endochitinase, which can provide some degree of defense against DRR infection. The team at ICRISAT, in collaboration with ICAR research institutes, has also adopted several multi-pronged approaches, including continuous surveillance, better detection techniques, development of forecast models, screening assays, etc., to fight against deadly plant diseases, according to the ministry.