Mad About Berries

How to Grow Chickpeas

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a staple legume in many parts of the world, particularly in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisines.

As a rich source of proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber, chickpeas play a crucial role in the diet of those following vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.

Published: April 20, 2024.

Their versatility in dishes—from hummus to stews and salads—makes them a valuable culinary ingredient.

In agriculture, chickpeas are equally important; they contribute to sustainable farming practices by fixing nitrogen in the soil, which helps reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.

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Brief History of Chickpea Cultivation

Chickpeas are one of the oldest cultivated crops, with evidence of their use dating back over 7,000 years in the Middle East.

From there, their cultivation spread to ancient civilizations across Greece, Rome, and India. Each region developed its own varieties and methods for growing chickpeas, which have been adapted and refined over millennia to suit different climates and culinary needs.

Choosing the Right Variety

There are primarily two types of chickpeas: Desi, which are small, darker, and have a rough coat, and Kabuli, which are larger, lighter in color, and have a smoother coat.

Desi chickpeas are commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern recipes, while Kabuli chickpeas are often found in Mediterranean dishes.

Within these categories, numerous cultivars have been developed to suit specific climates and tastes, such as the 'Bengal gram' in India or the 'Garbanzo' in Mediterranean regions.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Variety

When choosing a chickpea variety to plant, several factors need to be considered:

  • Climate: Chickpeas are adaptable but generally prefer cooler temperatures and less humid climates for optimal growth.
  • Soil Type: They thrive in well-drained, loamy soils but can tolerate poor soil conditions.
  • Disease Resistance: Some varieties offer better resistance to common diseases like blight and root rot, important for maintaining a healthy crop.

Climate and Soil Requirements

Ideal Climate Conditions for Growing Chickpeas

Chickpeas best grow in areas where winters are mild and summers are not excessively hot. They require about 400-500 mm of rainfall annually, ideally distributed throughout their growing season.

Excessive moisture, especially during flowering and pod development, can lead to fungal diseases.

Soil Preparation and the Best Soil Types for Chickpea Cultivation

The ideal soil for chickpeas is well-drained with a neutral to slightly acidic pH (between 6.0 and 7.0). Prior to planting, the soil should be worked to a fine tilth to facilitate root penetration.

It's beneficial to conduct a soil test to adjust pH and ensure adequate phosphorus and potassium levels, as chickpeas are sensitive to nutrient imbalances.

Organic matter like aged manure, worm castings, dried manure pellets, and similar, can be added to improve soil structure and fertility, aiding in water retention and providing a healthier growing environment for chickpeas.

dried manure pellets

Planting

Optimal Timing for Planting Chickpeas Based on Geographic Location

Chickpeas are typically planted in the spring in cooler climates to avoid frost damage, as they require a growing season where the soil is at least 10°C (50°F) to germinate effectively.

In warmer regions, such as South Asia or the Middle East, chickpeas can be sown in the late autumn, allowing them to utilize winter moisture. Timing must also accommodate the end of the rainy season to avoid seed rot or fungal infections.

Techniques for Sowing Chickpea Seeds

Chickpea seeds should be planted at a depth of about 5 to 8 cm (2-3 inches) to ensure adequate soil moisture contact and protection from the elements.

Seeds can be sown manually in small plots or using a seed drill in larger fields to maintain consistent spacing and depth. Row spacing is generally about 30 to 40 cm (12-16 inches) apart, which helps in managing pests and diseases by improving air circulation around the plants.

Tips for Ensuring Good Germination

For successful germination, chickpea seeds require well-drained soil and moderate moisture. Soaking the seeds for 12-24 hours before planting can enhance germination rates. Ensure the soil is not overly wet, as chickpeas are susceptible to rot.

Additionally, selecting high-quality, disease-free seeds from certified suppliers increases the likelihood of a healthy crop.

Watering and Fertilization

Guidelines on How Much to Water Chickpeas During Different Growth Stages

Chickpeas do not require a lot of water compared to other crops. Over-watering can lead to root diseases and reduce oxygen availability in the soil.

Watering should be moderate after planting until germination, followed by a reduction as the plants establish. Increase watering slightly during flowering and seed formation, then taper off as the pods mature to encourage drying.

Recommendations for Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers

Chickpeas generally require low fertilization. Before planting, applying a balanced fertilizer based on soil test results can help in early growth.

However, excessive nitrogen should be avoided as chickpeas are capable of nitrogen-fixation. Using organic compost or a phosphorus-rich fertilizer can encourage robust root and plant development without disrupting soil nitrogen levels.

Importance of Nitrogen Fixation in Chickpeas and Managing Soil Health

Chickpeas enhance soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen through symbiotic relationships with bacteria in their root nodules.

To support this, maintain soil pH around 6.0-7.0 and ensure adequate levels of other nutrients like phosphorus and potassium. Crop rotation with non-leguminous crops can also help manage soil nutrients and prevent disease build-up.

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Chickpeas and Crop Rotation

Growing chickpeas as part of a crop rotation system can be highly beneficial for soil health and crop productivity. Certain crops can be especially advantageous when planted before chickpeas. Here are some good options:

  • Cereals (e.g., Wheat, Barley, Rye): Cereal crops are commonly used before chickpeas in a rotation. They help break pest and disease cycles that affect legumes. Also, the residue from these crops can provide organic matter and protect the soil, enhancing its structure and fertility.
  • Grasses and Cover Crops: Grasses or non-leguminous cover crops, such as oats or ryegrass, can be effective in improving soil structure, reducing erosion, and suppressing weeds. These crops are often used as green manure when they are plowed into the soil to add organic matter and nutrients.
  • Brassicas (e.g., Canola, Mustard): Brassica crops, including canola and mustard, are good predecessors for chickpeas because they leave a biofumigant effect that can reduce soil-borne diseases and pests. These crops can also help in breaking up compact soil with their deep rooting system.
  • Sorghum or Millets: These crops are robust against harsh conditions and can effectively manage soil pathogens and pests, preparing a better environment for subsequent chickpea planting.
  • Fallow Period: In regions where water is scarce, a fallow period before planting chickpeas can help accumulate soil moisture reserves. This practice is common in semi-arid areas where chickpeas are grown.

Choosing the right preceding crop depends on local conditions, including climate, soil type, and prevalent pests and diseases.

Companion planting can be an effective strategy for maximizing space, improving pest control, and enhancing overall crop health. When it comes to chickpeas, choosing the right companion plants can provide these benefits and more. Here are some good companion plants for chickpeas:

  • Barley and Wheat: These cereals can be good companions because they can provide shade and support for chickpeas, reducing the risk of the plants being blown over by wind. Additionally, they can help suppress weeds that might otherwise compete with the chickpeas.
  • Flax: Planting flax with chickpeas can help improve soil structure and prevent weed growth. The flax plants also attract beneficial insects that prey on common pests.
  • Brassicas (e.g., Cauliflower, Broccoli, Kale): These plants can help deter pests away from chickpeas and are generally compatible in terms of soil and water needs.
  • Other Legumes (e.g., Lentils, Fava Beans): Planting different legumes together can be beneficial as they will contribute to soil nitrogen enrichment. However, it's important to manage them carefully to avoid excessive competition and to minimize the risk of sharing pests and diseases.
  • Marigold: This flower is known for its ability to deter pests, particularly nematodes that might affect chickpeas. The bright flowers also attract pollinators, which can be beneficial for the overall health of the garden.
  • Carrots and Radishes: These root vegetables can help loosen the soil around chickpeas, making it easier for chickpea roots to penetrate deeply. Their different root depths mean they don’t compete strongly with chickpeas for nutrients.
  • Cucumbers and Squashes: These plants have sprawling habits and can provide ground cover, which helps in maintaining soil moisture and suppressing weeds. Their broad leaves also help in shading the soil, reducing the evaporation of water, which benefits chickpeas during hot weather.

When planning your garden or field layout with companion plants for chickpeas, it's important to consider factors like sunlight, water needs, and spacing to ensure that all plants can thrive without competing aggressively with each other.

carrots

Planting the right crops after chickpeas can optimize the benefits of crop rotation, such as breaking pest and disease cycles, improving soil structure, and enhancing nutrient availability. Here are some good options for plants that can or should be planted after chickpeas:

  • Cereals (e.g., Wheat, Barley, Corn): These crops are commonly planted after chickpeas because they can benefit from the nitrogen that chickpeas, as legumes, fix in the soil. These cereals also have different pest and disease profiles compared to legumes, which helps in breaking cycles of specific legume-associated issues.
  • Root Crops (e.g., Potatoes, Carrots): These crops can benefit from the improved soil structure left by the deep-rooting system of chickpeas. The loosened soil allows root crops to grow more easily, plus they typically follow different nutrient uptake patterns which minimize competition for residual nutrients.
  • Brassicas (e.g., Canola, Cabbage, Broccoli): Brassicas are good to follow chickpeas because they can utilize the residual nitrogen effectively. Also, their differing pest and disease susceptibilities make them suitable for following chickpeas in a rotation.
  • Leafy Greens (e.g., Spinach, Lettuce): These plants have short growing cycles and can quickly take advantage of the nitrogen-rich soil left by chickpeas. They are light feeders in terms of nutrients and can be easily slotted into rotation after chickpeas.
  • Onions and Garlic: These crops can benefit from looser soil conditions and are generally not susceptible to the same diseases as chickpeas. Their strong scents can also help deter certain pests in the soil, further cleansing the ground before another legume or susceptible crop is planted.
  • Cover Crops (e.g., Rye, Oats, Clover): If you're not immediately planting a commercial crop, sowing a cover crop can help maintain soil structure, suppress weeds, and prevent erosion. Cover crops can also help fix even more nitrogen if legumes are used, or recycle nutrients if non-legumes are planted.

garlic

When planning your crop rotation, consider the specific needs of your subsequent crops, such as their nutrient requirements, preferred soil conditions, and susceptibility to pests and diseases that might have been present during chickpea cultivation.

Proper planning and management can lead to a healthy, productive growing environment - crop rotation not only aids in managing these factors but also supports sustainable agricultural practices by enhancing biodiversity and minimizing the need for chemical inputs.

Managing Pests and Diseases

Common Pests and Diseases That Affect Chickpeas

Chickpeas can be susceptible to various pests and diseases, such as aphids, pod borers, and root rot. Fungal diseases like Ascochyta blight are also a significant concern, especially in humid conditions.

Organic and Chemical Methods to Protect Chickpea Crops

Organic methods include crop rotation, using disease-resistant varieties, and biological pest controls like introducing natural predators.

Chemical methods should be used as a last resort and involve fungicides and pesticides approved for use in legumes. Always follow the manufacturer's guidelines to avoid harming the crop and the environment.

Preventative Measures to Reduce the Risk of Pests and Diseases

Preventative measures include selecting disease-resistant varieties, ensuring proper field sanitation, and practicing good crop rotation.

Regular monitoring of the crop for early signs of pest or disease and timely intervention can prevent widespread damage.

Maintaining optimal planting density and proper irrigation practices also significantly reduce the risk of diseases.

Weed Management

Strategies for Effective Weed Control in Chickpea Crops

Effective weed management in chickpea cultivation is rather important to ensure that the crops do not compete for nutrients, water, and light.

Pre-planting tillage can be used to reduce the initial weed burden. After planting, shallow cultivation and hand weeding are common practices that help manage weeds without disturbing chickpea roots, which can be quite shallow.

For larger operations, herbicides may be selectively used, but it’s important to choose products that are safe for legumes and apply them according to guidelines to minimize harm to the crop and the environment.

For small gardens, removing weeds manually is by far the best option.

Impact of Weeds on Crop Yield and How to Mitigate It

Weeds can significantly impact chickpea yields by competing for resources and harboring pests and diseases. They can also impede airflow around plants, increasing the likelihood of fungal infections.

To mitigate these effects, integrate a weed management plan that includes proper crop rotation, which can reduce the weed seed bank in the soil over time.

Additionally, maintaining optimal planting densities can help chickpeas outcompete weeds, reducing their impact.

Chickpeas Harvest

Signs that Chickpeas are Ready to be Harvested

Chickpeas are ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellow and start shedding, and the pods turn brown and harden.

Most of the pods should be mature, and the seeds inside should be firm. Harvesting too early can result in high moisture seeds that are prone to spoilage while harvesting too late can lead to seed loss as pods may split open.

Methods for Harvesting Chickpeas, Both Manually and Mechanically

In small-scale settings, chickpeas can be harvested manually by pulling up the entire plant or by cutting it at the stem base.

For larger fields, mechanical harvesters, such as a combine, are used to efficiently harvest the crop. These machines cut the plant and separate the chickpeas from the pods and debris in one go.

Tips for Maximizing Yield and Quality

To maximize yield and quality, harvest in dry weather to reduce the moisture content of the harvested chickpeas and minimize the need for drying.

Adjust the settings on mechanical harvesters to ensure that the chickpeas are not damaged during the process. Regular maintenance of equipment is also crucial to prevent losses during harvesting.

Post-Harvest Handling

Techniques for Drying and Storing Chickpeas

After harvesting, chickpeas should be dried to reduce moisture content to about 10-12%, which is safe for storage and prevents fungal growth.

Drying can be achieved through natural sun drying or using mechanical grain dryers. Once dried, chickpeas should be cleaned to remove debris and damaged seeds before storage.

Importance of Moisture Control to Prevent Spoilage and Loss

Proper moisture control is critical in storing chickpeas. Chickpeas should be stored in a cool, dry place in airtight containers to prevent moisture from re-entering.

Regular monitoring of storage conditions, including temperature and humidity, helps prevent the development of mold and insect infestations, preserving the quality of the chickpeas over time.

Uses and Benefits

Nutritional Benefits of Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a powerhouse of nutrition, providing significant amounts of plant-based protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are rich in essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, folate, phosphorus, and B vitamins.

Chickpeas are also a great source of complex carbohydrates and have a low glycemic index, which helps in managing blood sugar levels.

Their high fiber content supports digestive health and contributes to cardiovascular health by helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Various Culinary Uses of Chickpeas in Different Cuisines

Chickpeas are incredibly versatile in the kitchen and are used in a variety of dishes across the globe.

In the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, they are a staple ingredient in hummus and falafel. In Indian cuisine, chickpeas are used extensively in curries and snacks like chana masala and bhel puri.

They are also used in salads, soups, and stews, and can be ground into flour called besan, which is used in a variety of recipes, from breads like socca to sweets like ladoo.

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Troubleshooting Common Problems

Identifying and Solving Common Issues in Chickpea Cultivation

Common issues in chickpea cultivation include poor seed germination, plant diseases such as root rot and blight, and pest attacks from insects like aphids and pod borers. Solving these issues often requires a combination of preventive and reactive measures:

  • Germination Issues: Ensure proper seed quality and soil moisture levels. Consider seed treatments to enhance germination.
  • Diseases: Use disease-resistant varieties and practice crop rotation. Ensure good field sanitation and adequate plant spacing to reduce humidity around the plants.
  • Pests: Monitor fields regularly for early signs of infestation, use natural predators to control insect populations, and apply organic or chemical insecticides judiciously.

Tips from Experienced Farmers and Agronomists

Experienced farmers recommend maintaining soil health through the addition of organic matter and regular soil testing to balance nutrient levels.

Water management is critical—ensure that chickpeas are not over-watered and that the field has proper drainage. Agronomists also suggest integrating chickpeas into diverse cropping systems to enhance soil fertility and reduce pest and disease risks.



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