by Trent Carslake
[Photo (left): CLIMA director Professor Kadambot Siddique, ICARDA senior chickpea breeder Dr R.S. Malhotra and Council of Grain Grower Organisations CEO Geoff Smith have plenty to discuss about the new chickpea varieties at the Mingenew-Irwin heavy land field day.]
Kabuli chickpea is back in rotation in Western Australia following the release of new ascochyta blight-resistant varieties. The new varieties will help reintroduce a popular crop devastated by this infectious disease.
The two new varieties, Almaz (tested as FLIP97-530-CLIMAS) and Nafice (tested as FLIP97-503-CLIMAS), were developed cooperatively with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Syria, the Aegean Agriculture Research Institute (AARI) in Turkey and the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) in Perth.
Nafice (Arabic for very precious) has bigger seeds than Kaniva and Almaz, but Almaz(Arabic for diamond) is higher yielding.The GRDC funded the first phase of the project from 1998-2000, with subsequent funding from 2002-06 by the Council Of Grain Grower Organisations (COGGO).
The new varieties were released at the Mingenew-Irwin Group"s recent heavy land field day.
Since ascochyta blight was first observed in WA in 1999, the chickpea area in the state has dropped from 80,000 hectares to 5000ha, mostly affecting the smaller desi variety. At the time, the kabuli chickpea industry was just emerging, with about 7000ha to 8000ha in production.
CLIMA director and co-breeder Professor Kadambot Siddique says the new ascochytaresistant kabuli chickpea varieties, with improved yield and large seed size, should now give growers a profitable pulse option. He believes WA"s kabuli chickpea crop could grow to 30,000ha, worth about $20 million.
"Across Australia, these new diseaseresistant varieties could increase kabuli production to 150,000ha, worth $100 million," Professor Siddique says. To fully protect the new varieties against ascochyta blight, growers should apply one or two strategically timed fungicide sprays to maximise yield and prevent an increase in disease pressure, he says.
The varieties are moderately susceptible to phytophora and possess better resistance than the currently grown Kaniva variety. Almaz and Nafice have a semi-erect growth habit, with Almaz about five centimetres taller than Kaniva.
West Mingenew grower Aiden Obst was particularly impressed by the height of the new chickpeas: "It is great that they retain their height once they have ripened, which will make the harvesting process a lot easier," he says.
They are well suited for winter sowing in regions of medium-to-high annual rainfall (400-to-700 millimetres) with neutral to alkaline soils; mild spring conditions are favourable for seed filling.
Kabuli is a high-value crop for human consumption in foods like hummus and falafel. Professor Siddique says Almaz and Nafice produce seeds with attractive beige-coloured seed coats and have similar cooking qualities to Kaniva, making them marketable for human consumption.
The Mediterranean countries, West Asia, North Africa and the Indian sub-continent are the main consumers of kabuli chickpea.
Nitrogen-fixing is the major rotational benefit of chickpea for subsequent cereal and oilseed crops. Professor Siddique says this reduces the requirement for increasingly expensive nitrogenous fertilisers, especially with the price per barrel of crude oil recently topping US$70.
Chickpea crops can also provide economical benefits of high gross margins: on average, good quality kabuli chickpea fetches $500-to-$700 a tonne.
"Fungicides eat away at profits, but the new varieties require less fungicide treatments than the incumbent Kaniva. This considerably lowers the costs associated with growing the new varieties," Professor Siddique says.
Irwin grower Chris Gillam says he has been bulking up Almaz and it has shown excellent resistance to ascochyta blight and good herbicide tolerance.
The varieties have been trialled in SA, NSW, Victoria and WA and will be released for eastern Australia at the Pulse Australia Coordinated Field Day to be held on 2 November at Kalkee, 15km north of Horsham. Seed will be available to growers through COGGO Seeds in WA and through AWB Seeds in eastern Australia.
For more information: Professor Kadambot Siddique, CLIMA, 08 6488 7012
[Photo (left): Council of Grain Grower Organisations director and Perenjori grower John Carstairs talks with CLIMA director Professor Kadambot Siddique.]
Varieties displaying this symbol beside them are protected under the Plant Breeders Rights Act 1994.