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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Enhancing food security through improved productivity, nutrition and marketing of chickpea in central and western Ethiopia

PI: Kassahun Tesfaye Geletu (, Institute of Biotechnology, Addis Ababa University
U.S. Partner: Douglas R. Cook, University of California, Davis
Project Dates: October 2015 - February 2020

Project Overview

Agriculture in Ethiopia forms the basis of the economy, with 80% smallholder farmers. These farming systems are characterized by low yields, widespread use of unimproved landraces, outdated production technologies, and biotic and abiotic stresses. In western and northwestern Ethiopia, soil acidity and consequent aluminum toxicity are a primary limitation to crop productivity, especially for chickpea (Cicer arietinum). Chickpea is the world’s second most widely grown pulse crop and a major source of human protein nutrition, with 40% of Africa’s chickpea crop being grown in Ethiopia. However Ethiopia’s chickpea yields remain low, well below yield potential.

Among the constraints to chickpea production is its sensitivity to aluminum toxicity (Sahu et al., 2010), which is a defining feature of low pH soils that are widely distributed in Ethiopia. It is critical to identify tolerant germplasm and understand the molecular genetic basis of aluminum tolerance. Moreover, because chickpea yields depend on beneficial soil microorganisms, especially nitrogen-fixing symbiotic bacteria and phosphate solubilizing micro-organisms (PSMs), a parallel need is to identify acid/Al-tolerant chickpea

4-315 1.18Kassahun 4-315 2.18
Field data collection by PEER PhD studentsPhoto courtesy of Dr. Kassahun

The project is well aligned with USAID’s focus in Ethiopia o n Agricultural Growth-Enabled Food Security, which emphasizes climate change, food security, and nutrition. Developing resilient crops in Ethiopia, such as chickpea tolerant to acid soils, is essential to improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. 

This project combines expertise in plant breeding and genomics, soil microbiology, and socioeconomics to develop chickpea technology to improve crop productivity and marketing in central and western regions of Ethiopia. The project will leverage the resources and expertise of the U.S. partner by testing wild-cultivated introgression lines, landraces, and elite cultivars for tolerance to acid. In parallel, the project researchers will identify tolerance to acid soils in endemic symbiotic Mesorhizobium and co-occurring PSM populations. Products will be pipelined to national chickpea breeding programs with Ethiopia for variety development and release.

Summary of Recent Activities

During this reporting period, screening of chickpea germplasm against soil acidity was carried out on field trials sites at two locations, namely, Holetta and Emdebir. All necessary agronomic practices were implemented to this end. Green house experiment analysis on PGP (phosphate solubilizing) activity was also completed. Fieldwork experiment is in progress and some relevant parameters collected and recorded from two field sites: Holetta (central) and Sodo/Endebuyo (southern) Ethiopia.

64 chickpea genotypes were planted at both locations with and without lime with two replications. Planting was carried out at Holetta trial site and at Emdebir trial site. All the necessary agronomic practices have been implemented. Currently, the field experiments at both trial sites are performing very well. Agronomic data, i.e., days to 50% plant flowering is already collected and collection of other relevant agronomic and yield data will follow for both sites.

The PI reports that they have started discussions with Wolkite University, Research and Technology Transfer team so that tolerant chickpea genotypes can be multiplied and given to local farmer in acidic soil. Moreover, a researcher from Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC),Australia has shown interest in collaborating and testing some of the PEER project finding including crosses, genotypes as well as inoculants.

In the next 2 months, they PEER team will continue harvesting, carrying out data recording and processing and analysis for field experiment. They will also work on finalizing report writing of the rhizobacteria study; organize workshop for stakeholders on Seed System, value chain and marketing of chickpea. They will prepare a manuscript for this research.

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 Field layout preparation at Endebir site. Photo courtesy of Dr. Kassahun

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