Canada overcomes WEATHER and DISEASE for chickpea bounty

CANADA is Australia's main competitor in the international chickpea market and conference delegates learned that the Canadian chickpea industry has faced - and largely overcome - as many challenges as its Australian counterpart. The Canadians not only have colder weather and killer frosts, but also a climate that ensures the constant presence of Ascochyta, with chickpea crops much more vulnerable to infection than in parts of Australia.

Canadian pulse scientist Bert Vandenberg told the Goondiwindi conference that "in Canada, growing chickpeas is a year-to-year thing; sometimes I say it's a month-to-month industry. Our success with chickpeas stemmed from economic desperation - we needed a crop that would build on our experience with lentils and field peas - and stubbornness; we wouldn't let Ascochyta knock us down". Professor Vandenberg is head of pulse crop research in the University of Saskatchewan's Department of Plant Sciences. He said other factors - including crop failures elsewhere, including Australia, and the emergence of new trading companies - contributed to the spectacular growth of the Canadian chickpea industry. Other pros have been an absence of virus disease or insect pests.

From a total 11 ,000 hectares producing 15,000 tonnes in 1997, the Canadian industry has leaped to estimated 2001 production figures of 498,000 tonnes on around 300,000 hectares.

He said the Canadian industry had made excellent progress in breeding for early maturity - necessary because of a very short growing season - and reasonable progress in Ascochyta resistance. And he would like to see an international effort to understand both Ascochyta and quality characteristics in chickpeas.

Program 2 Contact: Mr John Slatter 07 4635 0726