Lentil is one of most important pulse crops in South Asia, and invariably encounters terminal moisture stress, leading to forced maturity and lower yield. A long and prolific root system is known to enhance capacity of the plant to extract water from the lower soil strata and thus help avoid the water stress. We assessed genetic variation for 12 traits among 43 lentil genotypes comprising improved varieties and promising breeding lines. The average root length at the 65-day plant stage ranged from 42 to 83 cm. Two genotypes (EC 208362 and VKS 16/11) with shorter root length and poor dry root weight (DRW) and three genotypes (DPL 53, JL 1, and IPL 98/193) with longer root length and high DRW were identified with stable performance over the years. Relationship of root traits with seed yield under rainfed conditions was non-significant in our study. The SPAD value (chlorophyll content) showed significantly positive correlation with DRW (r = 0.45**) and root length (r = 0.44**) and thus can be used as selection criterion for phenotyping root traits which are otherwise difficult to measure in the field. In drought-prone environments, early flowering and maturity, seedling vigour, and high SPAD value, biological yield, and harvest index were identified as key traits for higher seed yield in lentil. Our results revealed significant genetic variability for these traits in lentil germplasm. Indian genotypes adapted to rainfed conditions were shown to have longer roots and higher DRW. The three genotypes (DPL 53, JL 1, and IPL 98/193) identified with superior root traits either originated from or have in their ancestries at least one parent adapted to rainfed conditions. These genotypes can be utilised for the development of mapping populations to identify QTLs associated with these traits for marker-assisted breeding of drought-tolerant, high-yielding varieties of lentil.
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Vol. 63 • No. 6