Agronomy and Horticulture Department


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Zero hunger and good health could be realized by 2030 through effective conservation, characterization and utilization of germplasm resources1 . So far, few chickpea (Cicerarietinum) germplasm accessions have been characterized at the genome sequence level2 . Here we present a detailed map of variation in 3,171 cultivated and 195 wild accessions to provide publicly available resources for chickpea genomics research and breeding. We constructed a chickpea pan-genome to describe genomic diversity across cultivated chickpea and its wild progenitor accessions. A divergence tree using genes present in around 80% of individuals in one species allowed us to estimate the divergence of Cicer over the last 21 million years. Our analysis found chromosomal segments and genes that show signatures of selection during domestication, migration and improvement. The chromosomal locations of deleterious mutations responsible for limited genetic diversity and decreased fitness were identified in elite germplasm. We identified superior haplotypes for improvement-related traits in landraces that can be introgressed into elite breeding lines through haplotype-based breeding, and found targets for purging deleterious alleles through genomics-assisted breeding and/or gene editing. Finally, we propose three crop breeding strategies based on genomic prediction to enhance crop productivity for 16 traits while avoiding the erosion of genetic diversity through optimal contribution selection (OCS)-based pre-breeding. The predicted performance for 100-seed weight, an important yield-related trait, increased by up to 23% and 12% with OCS- and haplotype-based genomic approaches, respectively. On the basis of WGS of 3,366 chickpea germplasm accessions, we report here a rich map of the genetic variation in chickpea. We provide a chickpea pan-genome and offer insights into species divergence, the migration of the cultigen (C. arietinum), rare allele burden and fitness loss in chickpea. We propose three genomic breeding approaches— haplotype-based breeding, genomic prediction and OCS—for developing tailor-made high-yielding and climate-resilient chickpea varieties. We sequenced 3,366 chickpea germplasm lines, including 3,171 cultivated and 195 wild accessions at an average coverage of around 12× (Methods, Extended Data Fig. 1, Supplementary Data 1 Tables 1, 2). Alignment of WGS data to the CDC Frontier reference genome11 identified 3.94 million and 19.57 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 3,171 cultivated and 195 wild accessions, respectively (Extended Data Table 1, Supplementary Data 1 Tables 3–7, Supplementary Notes). This SNP dataset was used to assess linkage disequilibrium (LD) decay (Supplementary Data 2 Tables 1, 2, Extended Data Fig. 2, Supplementary Notes) and identify private and population-enriched SNPs (Supplementary Data 3 Tables 1–4, Supplementary Notes). These private and population-enriched SNPs suggest rapid adaptation and can enhance the genetic foundation in the elite gene pool.