Thermotolerance genotypes for sustainable legume production in South Africa

Thermotolerance genotypes for sustainable legume production in South Africa (2016-2018).

Globally, an increase in atmospheric temperature in unequivocal established with models predicting a continued increase in temperatures of about 1.5°C by the end of the 21st century. Global warming is predicted to negatively affect plant growth and agricultural production especially in tropical and subtropical areas where temperatures are already high due to the damaging effect of heat stress on plant development and seed yield. One of the obvious solutions to heat stress is to select and develop crop species with improved tolerance to heat stress and desirable agronomic traits to maintain economic yield under high temperatures. The project plans to identify thermotolerant genotypes in three legume species differing in growth habit, usage and production areas and seasons in South Africa.

These include Aspalathus linearis, Vigna unguiculata (cowpea) and Cicer arietium (chickpea). Aspalathus linearis is an important commercial crop in the Western Cape produced by over 450 farmers, and is used to make a mild-tasting tea associated with important health benefits and medicinal value. Cowpea and chickpea are important food security crops for smallholder low-resource farmers in the tropics and semiarid tropics. Grain legumes are second to cereals in providing food for humans and are a rich source of proteins throughout the world. The effect high temperature on the A. linearis, cowpea and chickpea will be determined in the field along a gradient of temperatures and in the glasshouse under high temperature conditions. Data on morphological, physiological, reproductive development and seed yield will be collected.  By studying A. linearis, cowpea and chickpea, we shall be able to unravel the effect of temperature changes at different times of the year and response of various legumes to the temperature changes. We hypothesize that growth and seed yield of the three legume species will be adversely affected with maximum average temperatures greater than 35°C.

This 3 year project, with the possibility of continuations, is lead by ACDI affiliate and project lead,  Dr Samson Chimphango, in collaboration with project partners from Department of Biological Sciences, Climate Science Analysis Group, and the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, University of Cape Town; Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University; Department of Crop Science, Tshwane University of Technology; and Department of Food Science, Aarhus University, Kirstinebjergvej Denmark.

Research Team