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Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) production in arid regions, such as those predominant in Pakistan, faces immense challenges of drought and heat stress. Addressing these challenges is made more difficult by the lack of genetic and phenotypic characterization of available cultivated varieties and breeding materials. Genotyping-by-sequencing offers a rapid and cost-effective means to identify genome-wide nucleotide variation in crop germplasm. When combined with extended crop phenotypes deduced from climatic variation at sites of collection, the data can predict which portions of genetic variation might have roles in climate resilience. Here we use 8113 single nucleotide polymorphism markers to determine genetic variation and compare population structure within a previously uncharacterized collection of 77 landraces and 5 elite cultivars, currently grown in situ on farms throughout the chickpea growing regions of Pakistan. The compiled landraces span a striking aridity gradient into the Thal Desert of the Punjab. Despite low levels of variation across the collection and limited genetic structure, we found some differentiation between accessions from arid, semiarid, irrigated, and coastal areas. In a subset of 232 markers, we found evidence of differentiation along gradients of elevation and isothermality. Our results highlight the utility of exploring large germplasm collections for nucleotide variation associated with environmental extremes, and the use of such data to nominate germplasm accessions with the potential to improve crop drought tolerance and other environmental traits.

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