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Climate-resilience of rural chicken is in the genes

Climate-resilience of rural chicken is in the genes

[NAIROBI] The genetic make-up of indigenous chickens has changed to better cope with climatic challenges, giving hope to future breeding of more productive and climate-resilient livestock, a study in Ethiopia has found.

According to researchers, backyard poultry farming provides about 97 per cent of Ethiopia’s total poultry meat and egg production.

African indigenous chickens are known to cope with harsh environmental conditions but how their genes contribute to this resilience was unknown. The researchers analysed environmental and genomic data relating to 245 Ethiopian indigenous chickens from diverse climatic regions including hot and temperate zones to identify the environmental and genetic drivers of local adaptation.

“The results of this study are significant for both smallholders and policymakers, particularly in the context of rapid environmental change.”

Almas Gheyas, University of Edinburgh

Researchers identified genes associated with adaptation to six key environmental factors such as temperature, rainfall that impacts water availability, and soil cover that affects food availability for foraging chickens, says the study published in Molecular Biology and Evolution.

“The results of this study are significant for both smallholders and policymakers, particularly in the context of rapid environmental change in many parts of the world, including Africa,” says Almas Gheyas, the study’s lead author and a researcher in animal genetics and genomics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

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