International Symposium on
Drylands Ecology and Human Security

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Developing Drought Tolerant and More Water-use Efficient Varieties of Cereal and  Legume Crops for Dry Areas in West Asia and North Africa

S. Rajaram*, O. Abdalla,  R.S. Malhtora, S. Grando, S. Ceccarelli, M. Nachit,
A. Abd El-Moneim, A. Sarker and M. Mosaad

Integrated Gene Management Program
International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Aleppo, Syria


Cereals (wheat and barley) and food/feed legumes (chickpea, lentil and grasspea) are important field crops generally grown under rainfed condition in Mediterranean environments of West Asia and North Africa. The drought and heat is common in this environment especially after the onset of flowering of these crops. Consequently ICARDA’s efforts have concentrated on yield stability of these crops by bringing together genes for drought and heat tolerance, disease resistance and, in certain cases, yield potential. Tel Hadya station of ICARDA in Syria offers open field laboratory for evaluation for these traits under natural environment. The entire segregating populations of wheat, barley and legumes are evaluated under approximately 300 mm of seasonal precipitation at this location. The outstanding advanced progenies are also evaluated under multilocation environments under different levels of water regimes ranging from very low to optimum. A high number of stability paramters have been combined into a set of very successful germplasm over a long period. The process and methodology used are:

1. Pyramiding of stress tolerance genes through conventional methodology including participatory plant breeding.

2. Exotic sources of germplasm have been our main target to achieve these objectives. The interspecific crosses have added a lot towards this goal.

3. Segregating populations have been subjected to natural stress condition to identify the gene constellation for stress tolerance.

In the future, we want to combine the above conventional technologies with biotechnological tools such as molecular markers and transgenics to pool additional genes.