Molecular biology, combined with Mendelian and quantitative genetics in quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping and marker-assisted selection (MAS), provides powerful new tools to facilitate efficient genetic manipulation by plant breeders of complex traits such as drought tolerance and phosphorus (P) acquisition ability. This paper examines current opportunities for genetically manipulating the ability of crop plants to more efficiently acquire (i.e. access and take up) essential soil nutrients, using as examples P and several of the crops in the genetic improvement mandate of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) – chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.), groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.), pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.], pigeonpea [Cajanus cajan(L.) Millsp.], and sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench]. It is concluded that for at least some of these important, but often academically and economically orphaned tropical food, forage and feed-grain crops, the genetic variation and molecular tools that we will need already exist or can be expected to become available in the very near future. With appropriate, targeted research, these tools can permit empirical exploration of the potential for marker-facilitated mapping and manipulation of major genes that can contribute to enhanced ability of these crops to acquire P from sources with limited availability. With these tools, delivery of new versions of currently popular high-yielding, high quality, disease resistant crop cultivars, having genetically improved ability to acquire P currently in soils but unavailable for crop growth, could take as little as five to seven years. Sustainable use of such improved cultivars would require their utilization as components of integrated soil fertility management systems.
Hash, C.T.; Schaffert, R.E.; Peacock, J.M. Prospects for using conventional techniques and molecular biological tools to enhance performance of `orphan’ crop plants on soils low in available phosphorus. Plant and Soil (2002) 245 (1) 135-146. [DOI: 10.1023/A:1020627926131]