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Chickpea: Adaptation and Varieties

Chickpea has an indeterminate growth habit, and will continue to flower while growing conditions remain favourable for vegetative growth. Moisture or nitrogen stress is required to encourage seed set and to hasten maturity.

In Saskatchewan, due to growth habit:

  • Kabuli chickpea is best adapted to the Brown Soil Zone; and
  • Desi chickpea is best adapted to the Brown and Dark Brown Soil Zones.

Soil Zones

Chickpea is not well adapted to saline soils or to high-moisture areas. It is not well-suited to soils with high clay content or areas where soils are slow to warm in the spring. Chickpea does not tolerate wet or waterlogged soils.

Production limitations in Saskatchewan include:

  • The long growing season requirement for current varieties; and
  • The high risk of the extremely aggressive disease, ascochyta blight.

Planting chickpea outside the areas of best adaptation has proven to be very risky due to: 

  • Delayed maturity;
  • High green seed content; and
  • Destructive disease infections. 

Chickpea can be planted on either summerfallow or stubble in the Brown Soil Zone and on stubble in the Dark Brown Soil Zone. 

Planting on stubble fields tends to reduce vegetative growth and results in moisture stress to hasten maturity. 

Due to the indeterminate growth habit of chickpea, plants can re-grow late in the season after rain showers or in the absence of a killing frost. There are no management practices to overcome the problem of late vegetative re-growth.

Chickpea is heat-tolerant and thrives under good moisture conditions with daytime temperatures between 21ºC and 29ºC and night temperatures near 20ºC. Chickpea is relatively drought-tolerant due to its long taproot, which allows it to use water from greater depths than other pulse crops.

To prevent delayed or uneven maturity, avoid planting chickpea in low lying areas in the field, around sloughs or in areas with high soil organic matter.

Rotational Considerations

Chickpea production is often successful in rotation with cereal grains such as durum wheat. Chickpea does not leave a lot of crop residue. Growing cereal crops with tall stubble before and after chickpea provides much-needed residue to protect the soil from erosion.

Ascochyta blight

Because of the aggressive nature of ascochyta blight of chickpea, careful consideration must be given to crop rotation and field selection.

It’s recommended that:

  • Chickpeas not are planted in the same field more than once in four years to allow for the breakdown of chickpea residue on which the disease survives. 
  • Planting chickpea on chickpea stubble may result in total crop failure and can increase the disease risk to neighbouring fields.

Research suggests:

  • The breakdown of ascochyta-blight-infected residue can be accelerated by incorporation into the soil. Residue incorporation does not follow current minimum tillage practices, but may be required if the chickpea residue was highly infected.
  • Chickpea can root to a depth similar to wheat or canola (deeper than lentil or pea), and can extract moisture from that depth.
    • Although this characteristic helps chickpea tolerate drought, it also depletes the soil profile of moisture for subsequent crops. This may explain why cereal yields tend to be lower following chickpea compared to lentil or pea.
    • The breakdown of ascochyta blight residue can be accelerated by incorporation of infected chickpea residue into the soil.  Residue incorporation does not follow current minimum tillage practices, but may be required in a highly infected crop.
    • The breakdown of ascochyta-blight-infected residue can be accelerated by incorporation into the soil. Residue incorporation does not follow current minimum tillage practices, but may be required if the chickpea residue was highly infected. Chickpea can root to a depth similar to wheat or canola (deeper than lentil or pea), and can extract moisture from that depth.
      • Although this characteristic helps chickpea tolerate drought, it also depletes the soil profile of moisture for subsequent crops. This may explain why cereal yields tend to be lower following chickpea compared to lentil or pea.

Selection of a mostly weed-free field is essential, as few herbicides are registered for use on chickpea. Perennial weeds should be controlled in the years prior to chickpea production. Chickpea is susceptible to the soil residues of some herbicides. It is important to record herbicide use each year and to avoid seeding chickpea in fields with soil residual herbicides. See the Guide to Crop Protection for information on re-cropping restrictions.

Varieties

Most chickpea varieties have leaves with 9 to 15 leaflets. These varieties are described as having a fern-leaf structure. Some kabuli varieties have a single (unifoliate) leaf structure instead of leaflets.

Varieties with good resistance

There are currently no varieties with good resistance to ascochyta blight, although breeding efforts are underway. Fern-leaf varieties tend to be less susceptible to ascochyta blight than unifoliate-leaf varieties, and develop symptoms later in the season.

Chickpea plants become most susceptible to ascochyta blight at the flowering stage. Under high disease pressure, varieties with fair resistance can experience up to 70 per cent yield loss.

Chickpea varieties have been compared in the Saskatchewan regional testing program since 1995. The results are described in the Varieties of Grain Crops

Inoculation

Chickpea is a pulse crop, and has the ability to fix 60-80 per cent of its nitrogen requirement from air in the soil under ideal conditions. For this to occur, the chickpea strain of nitrogen-fixing inoculant (Rhizobium) is required. 

Chickpea has a very specific relationship with Rhizobium, and it is essential to use an inoculant specifically developed for chickpea. Some chickpea inoculants will be labelled as “garbanzo bean” and are appropriate for use in chickpea. 

Inoculants for pea and lentil will not produce nodules on chickpea and are not suitable.

Under good growing conditions, chickpea is considered a relatively good nitrogen-fixer (similar to lentil), provided that an appropriate Rhizobium inoculant is used. 

Next: Chickpea Fertilizer Considerations


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