Get your hands off me

CAPTION This is an intact (center) chickpea flower suitable as pollen source, and with petals removed (right) showing pollen. CREDIT Thomas Stefaniak.

This is an intact (center) chickpea flower suitable as pollen source, and with petals removed (right) showing pollen.
Photo: Thomas Stefaniak.

Or how the humble chickpea reacts to breeding

Chickpeas don’t like to be touched according to two scientists with an interest in breeding new varieties.

Breeding for desirable traits – such as increased resistance to diseases and pests – is difficult.

In fact, it is “tedious and inefficient,” says Thomas Stefaniak, one of the scientists from North Dakota State University, involved in the study.

During the study the pair tried four different breeding methods for crossing chickpeas.

It is unclear what causes most crossing attempts with chickpeas to fail. “A common assumption is that chickpea flowers simply do not like to be touched by human hands,” says Stefaniak.

A lot of touching goes on in the process of plant breeding especially during a process called emasculation. 

Emasculation was not very successful and in fact seemed to lower rates of pollination.

Then they tried hormones.  Now who doesn’t like a good dose of hormones?  Just ask any menopausal woman.

And previously these hormones had been shown to increase the crossing efficiency between wild and cultivated species of chickpea. But Stefaniak and McPhee were not successful.

They also tried a combination of emasculation and hormone treatment. Again, they did not find any increase in crossing efficiency.

In conclusion, “The results of this study do not support using emasculation, hormone treatment or a combination of the two to improve crossing efficiency in chickpeas.”

So it’s back to the lab, the greenhouse and the field for Stefaniak as he turns his attention to environmental conditions in an attempt to successfully cross one of the worlds’ most important crops.

Leave a Reply