SATrends Issue 89
April 2008
1. Ever ready chickpeas!

Chickpea (Cicer arietinum), as any other legume and most plants for that matter, can be successfully pollinated when the stigma within the flower is ready to receive and retain the fertilizing pollen grains from the anthers of its own or a neighboring flower. Many research papers maintain that pollination in chickpea needs to be carried out before 10 or 11 in the morning on the day the flower blooms. This time period, they claim, is when the stigmas are receptive and the most likely time for cross-pollination to be successful. At ICRISAT, one of the aims of this present investigation was to test the hypothesis that chickpea stigmas were receptive only for a few hours in the morning (till 1100 am) on the day when the flower opened.

The surface of the stigma contains a range of proteins with intense esterase activity involved in the recognition of compatible pollen. Proteinaceous components of the pollen and stigma surface are believed to mediate the recognition process to effect pollination/fertilization. Esterases were taken as the indicator of receptivity of the stigma.

Flowers were emasculated and pollinated on the day the flower opened from 0830 in the morning to 0400 in the evening. All the emasculations and pollinations were carried out under controlled conditions of temperature (30-330C) and relative humidity (48-50%). Happily, we observed that chickpea stigmas were receptive till 0400 in the evening with pollen germination and pod formation from pollinations that were carried out from 0830 to 1600. This was confirmed by stigma surface esterase analysis and pollen germination on the stigma.

Table1 Pollen germination and stigma receptivity studies in chickpea. (1) Pollen germination on the stigma at 0900 in the morning. (2) Pollen germination on the stigma at 1230. (3) Pollen germination on the stigma at 1600. (4) Esterase activity on the stigma at 1230. (5) Esterase activity on the stigma at 1600.


Thus, we conclude that under controlled conditions of temperature and a relative humidity, chickpea stigmas retain their receptivity for a longer duration than earlier believed. Hence, manual pollination can be carried out through the day of flower opening and need not be restricted to the morning hours. We hope that this information will facilitate longer working hours for crossing experiments.

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2. Reaching the full potential of chickpea in Ethiopia

With 185,000 hectares of land cultivated under chickpea and a total production of 180,000 tons, Ethiopia is the largest producer of chickpea in Africa. Farmers who cannot afford fertilizers use the crop in rotation to improve the productivity of cereals. This characteristic of chickpea has highly integrated the crop into the farming system and makes it a particularly good choice for areas that suffer from soil nutrient depletion.

Despite its high potential for improving the incomes of the poor, chickpea has not been fully exploited in Ethiopia. ICRISAT conducted a study in several primary markets in one of the major chickpea growing areas (Ada-Liben) and tertiary markets in both Addis Ababa and Nazareth, to review the production and marketing of chickpea. The study estimated the production costs, local price trends, access to improved cultivars and identified market access and other institutional constraints in developing the chickpea value chain.

HHB 67 Farmers move their valued chickpea harvest to the homestead for threshing.

Why is the full potential of chickpea not realized in Ethiopia? First, new high-yielding varieties with market-preferred traits have not reached farmers. Second, the local landraces grown by farmers in many countries do not meet the quality and quantity requirements preferred by domestic and international markets and thus it is largely consumed on the farm. Farmers do not gain much from grain quality improvements as traders at the upper end of the market chain capture much of this benefit. Lastly, there is pervasive asymmetric information in the marketing system, which has resulted in opportunistic behavior among the market actors. As far as export markets go, it was found that competitiveness in the South Asian markets mainly depended on prices and was less responsive to quality differentiation.

A concerted effort is needed to introduce high-yielding improved chickpea varieties and efficient market information systems. Increased access to new kabuli varieties will allow farmers to generate a surplus for markets. Existing quality grades need to be integrated into the pricing systems so that actors along the chain will recognize the value of standardized products. Farmers should be advised to keep different varieties separate to differentiate quality grades. Reliable sources of information on available supplies and real time prices in the domestic and international markets are crucial. There is a need for increased participation of the private sector in provision and strengthening of business support services to farmer cooperatives and traders along the value chain. As these requirements are realized, chickpea will begin to contribute substantially to Ethiopia’s agriculture sector.

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3. A lady leads the learning

Mrs Mbiri Tengerepena is one among the twenty farmers selected by her peers in the Gumulira village to take part in the ICRISAT program for seed systems development, in which each farmer received 20 kg of groundnut variety ICGV-SM 90704 seed, locally called Nsinjiro. She and more than 1200 other farmers participate in the joint ICRISAT-Millennium Village Project (MVP) in Mchinji district in central Malawi.

Mbiri Tengerepena lives in Bwerela Basikolo (a sub-village of Gumulira), and grows a number of crops – groundnut, maize, tobacco and soybean. She has also been growing local groundnut varieties that were low yielding and susceptible to groundnut rosette disease and other foliar diseases.

Mbiri was selected for the ICRISAT program because of her hard work and commitment to groundnut production and other food security initiatives. More importantly, she has shown enthusiasm and guaranteed success in seed production by following recommended practices for groundnut seed production. In addition to the seed provided by ICRISAT for purposes of seed production, Mbiri Tengerepena was also given 10 kg seed as part of the MVP program to popularize rosette resistant groundnut varieties in their villages of intervention.

HHB 67 Mbiri in her thriving groundnut field backed by ICRISAT scientists.

The association between Millennium Village Project and ICRISAT helped Mbiri to access a good, high yielding, medium duration, and rosette resistant variety of groundnut. She rightly observes, “This variety (ICGV-SM 90704) has the potential to give better yields than our local varieties because it is resistant to many diseases”.

She was overwhelmed and excited when ICRISAT scientists visited her seed production field in late March. In her view, the visit confirms that she is an able and enthusiastic leader, that she is not working in vain and that fellow farmers will be learning from her field how to produce good quality seed. She plans to sell part of the seed produced to the ICRISAT seed revolving scheme and to keep the rest as seed for planting in the next season.

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