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Improved chickpea varieties strengthen food security

Chickpea is an important food legume crop in Sudan. It is important economically – as a cash crop that generates income for farmers and rural communities – and as a significant source of protein for poor people. Despite this, production fluctuates widely and farmers face a number of debilitating constraints: the widespread incidence of disease, the destructive activities of pests, parasitic weeds, and limited access to quality high-yielding cultivars.
 

In response, the EU-IFAD Wheat-legumes project is testing, validating, and disseminating proven technologies and techniques to help Sudanese chickpea farmers overcome these limitations and raise their productivity.
 

The Project has demonstrated high-yielding varieties of chickpea to farmers and other stakeholders in the Gezira region, and other areas throughout the River Nile State. In Gezira, the varieties Salawa and Burgieg have performed extremely well, generating an average 4.01 and 3.84 t/ha, respectively – far higher than the 1.66 t/ha average achieved by traditional crops.
   

Researchers have also sought solutions to control weeds which commonly constrain the growth of Sudan’s chickpea plants. Research activities have verified the activity and selectivity of the herbicide oxyfluorfen. The application of this herbicide generated a demonstrable increase in yields – in fields where no control measures were applied losses due to weed growth approached 75%. Furthermore, visual observations revealed that chickpea crops demonstrated no signs of phytotoxic symptoms.
 

The initiative has also taken forward ambitious breeding programs in Sudan that will boost the country’s reserves of improved high-yielding cultivars and strengthen national food security. A breeding program in northern Sudan, for instance, is maintaining released chickpea varieties; producing breeder seed of cultivars; and improving promising lines of reified, stable and high-yielding varieties that possess tolerance to biotic stresses and combine large seed size, earliness, and suitability for mechanical harvesting.
 

In addition, researchers have conducted experiments to select suitable genotypes for different agro-climatic regions in Sudan. Twenty one chickpea genotypes were introduced from ICARDA to screen performance under Sudan’s heat stress conditions in different locations.
 

Results showed significant differences, and researchers were able to successfully identify varieties that were high-yielding from those susceptible to the harsh conditions prevalent in Sudan. Resistance to wilt diseases, particularly Fusarium wilt, as well as root rot, bacteria, and nematodes that affect the vascular system of plants were also investigated. Out of eight varieties tested, local varieties - Shendi, Jebl Marra and Mattama - demonstrated the highest disease incidence and severity. Several chickpea genotypes - FLIP03-59C (large seeded) and FLIP02-88C (adapted to mechanical harvesting) – demonstrated resistance to wilt and root rot complex disease.