Species: Cicer arietinum L.
French: Pois chiche; English: Chick pea, gram; Spanish: Garbanzo; German: Kichererbse.
Origin and diffusion
Chickpea does not exist in the wild, but only cultivated. The region of origin is western Asia from which it spread to India, Africa and Europe in very remote times: it was known and cultivated by the ancient Egyptians.
Chickpea is the third largest grain legume after the bean and pea. The cultivated area in the world is approximately 11 million hectares. Most of the product is consumed locally.
Dried chickpea seeds are an excellent food for humans, rich in food quality proteins (15-25%), among the best within grain legumes.
In Italy, the chickpea area has dropped to less than 3,500 hectares, almost all located in the southern and island regions.
Dried chickpeas - Cicer arietinum L. (photo website)
Chickpea is an annual plant, with branched root, deep (up to 1.20 m), which makes it very aridoresistant; the stems are branched, erect or semi-prostrate, from 0.40 to 0.60 m long; the leaves are composed, imparipinnate, with 6-7 pairs of elliptic leaflets denticulate on the edges, the flowers are generally white, mostly solitary, after the fertilization of the flower, which is autogamy, an oblong ovate legume is formed, containing 1 o sometimes 2 seeds. The whole plant is greyish green and pubescent due to the presence on all organs of dense glandular hair which secrete an acid solution due to the presence of malic and oxalic acid.
The seeds are round and smooth in some types, wrinkled, angular and rostrate ("ram's head") in others, the most common color is yellow, but there are chickpeas with red or brown seminal integument. The size of the seeds is a determining factor in the commercial value of the chickpeas: there are large-seeded and small-seeded varieties; some markets (Italy, Spain and North Africa, where this legume is consumed whole) accept only large-seeded chickpeas, appreciating them all the more the seed is larger, on other markets (Middle East, Iran, India) the chickpeas prevail at small seeds, which are used in food preparations that require flour.
Chickpea - Cicer arietinum L. (photo www.cac-biodiversity.org)
Chickpea is a microthermal plant that germinates quickly enough with temperatures of around 10 ° C. germination is underground and the seedlings have no particular difficulty emerging from the ground. It resists the cold less than the bean so much so that throughout the Mediterranean basin chickpea is sown at the end of winter and is harvested in July-August, while only in very mild winter countries (India, Egypt, Mexico) the period of sowing is autumn.
Chickpea is an indeterminate plant, which begins to bloom starting from the low knots and whose flowering continues for a few weeks. The fruit set is generally quite low: for various reasons (high temperature or high humidity or cryptogamic attacks) it is normal for very strong shares of flowers to abort.
Chickpea is a very rustic plant, suitable for the hot-arid climate, because it resists drought very well while it does not tolerate excessive humidity.
As far as the soil is concerned, the chickpea shuns the very fertile ones, where it attaches badly, and especially from the clayey and poorly structured ones, therefore asphyxiated and subject to stagnant water. The most suitable soils are medium-textured or light soils, as long as they are deep, where chickpea can fully show its characteristic resistance to drought. Chickpea has a low level of tolerance to soil salinity. In soils rich in limestone, chickpeas are difficult to cook.
At present the chickpea variety panorama is not very rich, as in most cases the local populations are cultivated. This is because the genetic improvement of this plant has only recently been undertaken.
The main objectives that the selection pursues are: resistance to the main adversities and in particular to anger; resistance to cold, to extend autumn sowing; modification of the habit of the plant from the normal semi-prostrate type towards a tall, erect, concentrated flowering or with the first pods well spaced from the ground, in order to make mechanical harvesting possible.
In the semi-arid environments to which the chickpea proves suitable, it alternates with the autumn cereal (wheat, barley) of which it constitutes a good precession, even if its improving power is not equal to that of the bean or pea.
The soil intended for chickpea must be worked deeply, in order to allow maximum radical deepening, and refined during the autumn and winter.
The chickpea is mostly sown in late winter, as soon as the coldest days have passed (March), in rows 0.35-0.40 m apart, aiming to create a population of 25-30 plants per square meter; according to the size of the seed different seed quantities are needed; with the chickpeas of the Tabuli type (the only ones available so far in Italy: weight of 1000 seeds equal to 350-500 g), they work around 100-180 Kg / ha of seed.
The recent availability of cultivars selected for resistance to cold makes it possible today, at least in the central-southern regions, to anticipate sowing in the autumn (October-November), with significant advantages in terms of yield.
Sowing can be done with wheat seeders or with precision seeders. The recommended sowing depth is around 50-70 mm. The seed must be carefully tanned to prevent cryptogame attacks on the seedlings.
Chickpea fertilization must be aimed above all to ensure that the crop does not lack phosphorus (and potassium if deficient); for nitrogen, nodulation, if regular as it almost always happens, ensures that the needs are met.
Since the removal of phosphorus is very limited, the relative fertilization can also be limited to 40-60 Kg / ha of P2O5.
In extremely lean or unfavorable soils, nitrogen fertilization with 20-30 kg / ha of nitrogen can be advantageous.
Chickpea weeding can be done successfully in pre-emergency using Pendimetalin + Imazetapir.
As a rule, chickpea does not require special cultivation treatments, only in certain cases it is customary to practice a light tamping; sometimes some treatment against rabies or against insects is recommended; in very arid environments, the cultivation of chickpeas is done with the help of irrigation.
Collection and use
Chickpea harvesting is traditionally done by grubbing up the plants by hand and letting them complete drying in the field in lambs; the ginning can then be done by hand or with a ginner or with a combine harvester equipped with a "pick-up" instead of the cutting organ. Even direct combine harvesting can be done with some success, especially if the soil is perfectly level and if the plants have an upright bearing.
A good chickpea crop can produce more than 3 t / ha of grain, but generally the yields are much lower, due to the scarce care that is given to chickpea.
With autumn sowing and a good cultivation technique, yields of the order of 4 t / ha can be achieved today, at least in the most favorable environments for this crop.
Chickpea straw is not appreciated as fodder as it is that of other legumes.
The chickpeas stored in the warehouse must undergo treatments to avoid damage from the weevil.
Adversity and pests
The most serious cryptogamic disease that affects chickpea is rabies or anthracnose (Ascochyta rabiei), which produces the drying of the aerial part and which can cause the destruction of the cultivation. The greatest hope lies in the establishment of resistant varieties; some results are obtained with direct struggle based on seed tanning and spraying at the beginning of the pod formation. Other fungi that can cause damage are chickpea rust (Uromyces cicer-arietini), wilting, caused by Rhizoctonia spp., Fusarium spp. Verticillum spp.
The most serious attacks of animals are brought by the Heliotis (sin. Helicoverga) armigera on the pods, by the larvae of Liriomyza cicerina minatrice of the leaves, by the Callosobruchus chinensis which attacks the seeds in the warehouse.
Chickpea can be infested, even if with less severity than the bean, by the orbanche.