After winning the year 2002 King Baudouin Award for
research on chickpea, the fraternity of scientists from
ICRISAT and national research institutions gathered for the
Second Biennial Chickpea Scientists’ Meet at Patancheru on 16
and 17 January.
Organized jointly by the Indian Council of Agricultural
Research and ICRISAT, 40 scientists from Indian research
institutions participated. Also present were delegates from
Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Australia and
The experts discussed developments in chickpea research and
reviewed future trends. The visiting scientists selected
breeding material and germplasm for field trials. At the same
time, ICRISAT scientists were able to glean nuggets of wisdom
from the visitors to help them tweak their research
Because it can withstand considerable stress, chickpea can
support farmers’ livelihoods in the rainfed tropics. It is
also the most important leguminous food grain for the people
of South Asia, providing dietary protein to vegetarians.
Across the globe, 8.25 million tons of chickpea were
produced in 2002 from 10.66 million hectares of farmland.
India accounted for nearly 65% of the global cropped area.
Although the area sown to chickpea area has not increased
during the past two decades, yield has increased, resulting in
a modest annual growth of 2%.
Though originally a cool-season crop of the temperate
latitudes, the development of short-duration, heat-tolerant
varieties have moved this crop further south in the dry
tropics. In South Asia the chickpea growing area has
dramatically shifted. For instance, the growth of irrigated
agriculture in the north has pushed the chickpea belt south
into the peninsular region. In Andhra Pradesh, where once the
crop was hardly grown at all, it has become a major crop.
The most interesting trend, however, is that in some places
farmers are shifting to chickpea cultivation from cash crops.
For instance, in Andhra Pradesh, farmers debt-ridden from
purchasing chemicals for their tobacco, chili and cotton crops
are moving to chickpea. The result: a tenfold increase in
production since 1986.
An opportunity in South Asia is to bring large tracts of
land lying fallow after rice harvest into chickpea
cultivation. Encouraging results have come from Bangladesh
where 10,000 hectares of rice fallow are now being used for
The challenge is to develop cultivars with improved water
use efficiency and drought tolerance. This is especially
important, because as water sources become increasingly scarce
across the globe, the portion used for agriculture is
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