Scientists at RMIT University are undertaking ground breaking research on the effects of salinity and drought stress on chickpeas.
The research team is led by Dr. Nitin Mantri and the aims of the project are phenotyping tolerant and sensitive genotypes, and using RNA sequencing to identify genes responsible for tolerance/sensitivity to drought and salinity. Not only will the outcomes of the project improve our understanding of the biology of chickpeas, but can also lead to selection of different types of chickpeas which can be grown successfully in otherwise stressful or harsh environments.
Dr. Mantri and his students are growing chickpea in pots at the RMIT glasshouse under a factorial experimental design. In order to ensure there is a difference in soil salinity and volumetric water content (i.e. drought), they are using Decagon’s GS3 Sensor which simultaneously measures soil water content, temperature and bulk electrical conductivity (EC).
Chickpea growing in the high salinity and/or drought treatment are expected to undergo osmotic stress leading to a reduction in growth rate, biomass accumulation, and ultimately fruit set and yield. Stress is being quantified in a number of ways, including the use of the PMS-600 Pressure Chamber, also known as the pressure bomb, to measure pre-dawn and midday leaf water potential. It is expected that chickpeas growing in the high salinity and/or drought treatment should have more negative leaf water potential values. The researchers are also using an Apogee Chlorophyll Meter to assess leaf chlorophyll content and plant performance.
The research is still in an early stage but Dr. Mantri and his team are confident their results will significantly improve our understanding of genomics and abiotic stress, as well as leading to better irrigation management with saline water and possibly increase chickpea yields on marginal agricultural lands.
Dr. Mantri uses the Apogee CCM-200 Chlorophyll Meter to measure leaf chlorophyll content.