Chickpea is leguminous crop, which offers a good nutrition to people across the world. It is common in Afro-Asian countries where there is a favorable tropical and sub-tropical climate. Moreover, Afro-Asian countries have fertile soils that provide robust nutrients to chickpea. Chickpea ranks second after soybean as the common leguminous crop that people grow and consume across the world. Therefore, its study is significant because chickpea has nutritional and economic importance in the world.
Fabaceae and Faboideae are family and subfamily names of chickpea respectively. The generic name of chickpea is Cicer, while the specific name is arietinum. Therefore, the scientific name of chickpea is Cicer arietinum.
Brief Overview: Economic Importance; Where grown; Uses
Chickpea has great economic importance because it ranks second after soybean as the common leguminous crop that farmers grow and people consume across the world. Since chickpea is one of the major legumes that people consumed around the world, it generates a lot of income to farmers who are mainly in Afro-Asian countries. Countries such as India, Pakistan, Australia, Turkey, and Burma are major producers of chickpea because they have favorable climate and fertile soils.
According to Sharma, Yadav, Singh, and Kumar, chickpea has important nutrition because it has quality proteins and sufficient carbohydrates (805). Hence, due to nutritional significance, chickpea provides nutrition to both humans and livestock. For instance, Indians use chickpea in making Indian cuisines such as hummus, salads, and stew. Moreover, farmers use some of chickpea in making animal feed for their livestock.
Focus Areas of this Report
To enhance understanding of chickpea, the report focuses on pathology, nutrition, biotechnology, secondary metabolites, ecology, domestication, and breeding and genetic resources as aspects of chickpea.
Chickpea is susceptible to a number of fungal infections. For example, ascochyta blight is a dominant fungal infection caused by Ascochyta rabiei. In countries such as Western Australia and India, farmers have experienced reduced yields in crop production due to ascochyta blight infections on their crops. According to the Department of Agriculture and Food, the susceptibility of chickpea to ascochyta blight infection varies depending on the crop’s variety and the level of fungicide protection applied (par. 4).
An infected plant has black spots, brown margins, and gray centers on the stems and leaves. Thereafter, the stems break causing the plant to wilt and eventually die. Usually, the stem damage is the major cause poor yields experienced by chickpea farmers in most countries. Infections usually take place when seed batches that have the fungus, or small pieces of trash infested with the disease causing fungi are transferred to a an area initially free from the infection. Evidently, low level of seed infection can cause a significant outbreak of the disease in a chickpea plantation, and affect the overall crop production.
Chickpea farmers have continually experienced declining yields in the overall productivity of the plant. The declining productivity is attributable to bacterial infections that affect the crops. One of the notable bacteria that infest chickpea is Pseudomonas syringae that causes bacterial blight. When infected the stems look appear soaked and later turn into olive green. The stems eventually develop purple brown spots and break. Moreover, the leaves become brown or black and take the shape of a fan.
They later turn yellow and build up brown papery spots on their lesions. Usually, an infection takes place on flowers and in sepals. The infection kills the flower buds before they open, and thus prevents pollination and reduces crop yield in chickpea (Crop Gene Bank par. 4). Infestation occurs when fresh uninfected plants mix with diseased plants and trash. This is because the bacterium can survive in the diseased plant for several months. Insects also may spread the infections to new plants during pollination.
Chickpea has a number of insect pests. Among many pests, pod borer (Helicoverpa armigera), is the dominant one. The pest causes serious crop damage in countries like Australia, Mediterranean, and Asia. Yadav, Naveen, Redden, Chen, and Sharma, state that, pod borers can cause a loss of over 25-40% on chickpea farms, a figure that amounts to $325 million per year (2).
The pests lay their eggs on the young pods and flowers of chickpea, while the larvae feed on the young leaves; hence, destroy seedlings of the plant. Moreover, the larvae of pod borers attack chickpea by boring holes on flower buds, pods, and maturing seeds. Therefore, the overall productivity of chickpea is affected.
Effect on Production or Yield
Fungi, bacteria, and pests have detrimental effects on chickpea plants. Across the world, farmers incur huge losses every year because of the damages caused by the fungi, bacteria, and pests. In the Australian, Indian, and Mediterranean regions, fungal diseases such as ascochyta blight adversely affect the productivity of the plant. Department of Agriculture and Food, pests and diseases cause significant reduction in chickpea yields in many countries around the Mediterranean region (par. 1).
On the other hand, bacterial infections are also destructive as farmers who plant chickpea incur great losses. For example, during winter, farmers in southern France, South Africa, and New Zealand, experience serious infections of bacterial blight, which has a negative impact on the yield and productivity of chickpea. Furthermore, pests such as pod borers destroy chickpeas. Therefore, fungi, bacteria, and pests, affect the yield of chickpea and reduce their overall productivity in many countries around the world.
Ways of Management
In the management of fungal and bacterial diseases of chickpea, infected crops should be isolated from the new plants because isolation reduces the introduction of the disease on the uninfected seeds. Moreover, farmers can also employ extensive crop rotation so that they can minimize the spread of infections within a single paddock. In addition, farmers can use fungicides and bactericides at the initial stages of the crop to reduce the risk associated with early infections.
To control pests, farmers can employ a number of strategies that are available. According to Acharjee and Sarmah, these strategies include rotational planting, spacing, time of sowing, inter cropping, fertilizer application, strip-cropping, wide hybridization, and germ-plasma screening (par. 4). Farmers can use these strategies to reduce the effects of fungal and bacterial diseases and in the control of pests.
Chickpea is an important leguminous crop because it provides nutrition to significant number of people in different parts of the world. Like other legumes, chickpea provides important nutrition to humans. Sharma, Sanjeev, Yadav, Singh, and Kumar state that chickpea provides quality proteins and good starch, which form part of human nutrition (808). Given chickpea is among the dominant legumes, it helps in meeting the protein and starch needs that humans require in their nutrition.
According to Jukanti, Gaur, Gowda, and Chibbar, “in the semi-arid tropics, chickpea is an important component of the diets of those individuals who cannot afford animal proteins or those who are vegetarian by choice” (11). Thus, chickpea offers cheap and quality proteins to the poor and vegetarians. Additionally, the starch provides carbohydrates and roughages that form a vital component of human nutrition.
Across the world, chickpea is an important leguminous crop not only in terms of nutrition, but also economically. Countries in the Middle East, North Africa, southern Europe, Australia, and Asia rely on chickpea as a source of food and commercial product. Jukanti, Gaur, Gowda, and Chibbar report that, “during 2006 and 2009, the global chickpea production area was about 11.3 million hectares, with a production of 9.6 million metric tons and an average yield of 849 kg per hectare” (11).
Out of this production, India alone produces about 66% of the world’s production. Thus, India is the major exporter of chickpea in the world. Farmers in India and other countries that grow chickpea earn money when they export their produce to different importers in various countries. Therefore, due to its nutritional and economic importance, Food and Agricultural Organization regards chickpea as the second dominant legume after soybean, which is grown and consumed across the world.
Nutrients that It Provides
Chickpea provide important nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Chickpea has quality proteins that can supplement essential amino acids such as isoleucine, leucine, and tryptophan. Sharma, Yadav, Singh, and Kumar state that the protein content of chickpea is about 18-31% depending on the variety of chickpea (805). While kabuli variety of chickpea has the highest content of protein, desi variety of chickpea has the lowest content of protein. In addition to proteins, chickpea has carbohydrates in the form of fats, starch, and fibers.
The fats that are present in chickpea are unsaturated and have low levels of cholesterol, and thus good for human consumption (Sharma, Sanjeev, Yadav, Singh, and Kumar 806). Moreover, starch and fibers provide energy and roughages respectively. Riboflavin, thiamin, pyridoxine, and niacin are some of the vitamins that are present in chickpea. The presence of these vitamins makes chickpea a nutritious crop. Chickpea also has minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, and magnesium, which are essential in the human body.
To improve nutritional value of chickpea, biotechnologists have employed a number of approaches. Hybridization is one of the methods that biotechnologists have used in breeding of chickpea to improve its productivity and nutritional value. In hybridization approach, biotechnologists employ single, triple, and multiple crosses when improving genome of chickpea. The combination of the crosses through backcross enables biotechnologists to insert new traits into native breeds or other hybrids.
In addition to hybridization approach, genomics-assisted breeding is an underway approach that aims at enhancing the traits of chickpea. Gaur, Jukanti, and Varshney state that application of genomic tools in breeding of chickpea has enhanced its productivity and nutritional value (212). Thus, genomic-assisted breeding is a breeding approach that has a great potential of improving nutritional value, since it entails the incorporation of other genes into chickpea.
Biotechnologists have devised numerous ways of ensuring that chickpea has increased resistance to pests and diseases. Helicoverpa armigera (pod borer) is a common pest that severely affects chickpea, and thus reduces yields significantly. To prevent the pest, biotechnologists have developed genetically modified chickpea that is resistant to the pod borer. According to Acharjee and Sarmah, biotechnologists have managed to insert a gene of Bacillus thuringesis (Bt gene), which confers insecticidal property to chickpea, and thus enables it to resist the attack of pod borers (5709).
Moreover, biotechnologists have developed chickpea that is resistant to fungal blight. The use of hybridization is another way of improving yields and productivity of chickpea. “Conventional breeding approaches have given over 350 improved cultivars, which have contributed to improved productivity, reduced fluctuations in yield, and enhanced adoption of chickpea to new niches” (Gaur, Jukanti, and Varshney 200). This means that hybridization by crossing the native and the hybrid varieties have enhanced traits of chickpea.
Importance of Biotechnology
Application of biotechnology in the development of chickpea hybrids that are resistant to pests and diseases has reduced the cost of using pesticides, fungicides, and bactericides. Consequently, resistance of chickpea to pests and diseases leads to increased yields. Gaur, Jukanti, and Varshney assert that the development of hybrids that have enhanced productivity of chickpea because biotechnology improves the traits of the wild chickpea (208). The wild varieties of chickpea are not only susceptible to pests and diseases, but they are also unproductive. Thus, the use of biotechnology is important because it increases the resistance of chickpea to pests and diseases, and improves yields.