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Contribution from Bob Brinsmead, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Hermitage Research Station, Warwick, Qld; Don Beech, recently retired from CSIRO, Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures, St. Lucia, Qld; and Ted Knights, NSWA, Agricultural Research Centre, Tamworth, NSW.
A more detailed history of chickpea in Australia is given in 'Developing New Agricultural Industries: Lessons from the Past' by Ian Wood, Peter Chudleigh and Katrina Bond. Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Research Paper Series No. 94/1.
Chickpea is one of the new crop success stories of the past decade in Australia.
Commencing with a few small sowings on the Darling Downs in south-east Queensland in 1978, chickpea production has increased rapidly. Production in 1993-94 is estimated to be 152 000 tonnes from 127 000 ha in five States. Victoria, with an estimated area of 80 000ha and estimated production of 92 000 tonnes, is the major producer.
Although chickpeas were first tested in Australia in the 1890s, the current industry had its origin in trials initiated at Wagga Agricultural Research Institute, NSW Agriculture (NSWA) in 1971 by Dr Albert Pugsley.
These first trials were conducted with six Indian chickpea introductions and the following year more than sixty accessions were introduced and screened. In 1973, further introductions were made from ICRISAT by Eric Corbin of NSWA. Eric Corbin coordinated the Australian assessment of chickpeas by distributing 15 lines in 1973 and 16 lines in 1974 to workers at a number of sites stretching from Launceston in Tasmania to Kununurra in northern Western Australia. Over the two years, there were six trials in Queensland, five in New South Wales, two each in Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, and one in South Australia.
This was a commendable cooperative effort by the various State Departments of Agriculture and CSIRO. The most promising yields were recorded in the Queensland and Kununurra trials.
Meanwhile, NSWA appointed Ted Knights, a plant breeder, to the Agricultural Research Institute, Wagga Wagga on a plant improvement program for grain legumes, with particular emphasis on chickpea.
One of the original lines assessed in the 1973 and 1974 nationwide trials was subsequently released by CSIRO and QDPI as cultivar Tyson on the basis of its performance in those and 1975-78 trials.
Chickpea is now grown in all States except Tasmania with Victoria, NSW and Queensland the main producers. It has fitted in well as a winter crop in the wheat growing areas in these States and in South Australia. Being a legume, it is able to meet its own nitrogen needs and also provide a residue of nitrogen for succeeding cereal crops.
To date twelve cultivars (seven desi types and five kabuli types) have been released throughout Australia. Desi chickpeas are small and angular with thick seed coats and are mainly split to form dhal. Kabuli chickpeas have a large rounded seed, cream to white in colour, and are favoured for use in a range of traditional dishes.
During the first decade of production, the problems encountered included weeds, lodging, sensitivity to waterlogging and cold, Heliothis insect damage and Phytophthora root rot. These have been largely overcome by the development of improved cultivars and improved cultivation practices.
Although India is the largest producer of chickpea, it regularly experiences serious shortfalls and thus was the main importer of Australian chickpeas initially. There have been a number of difficulties associated with the Indian market including the imposition of an import duty, marked fluctuations in price from year to year and a massive 43% devaluation of the Indian rupee in 1992.
In recent years, Australia has diversified its export markets to include Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
The Australian chickpea industry was fortunate that it was able to respond when the Indian market opened up in the late 1970s. While problems were initially experienced by farmers, these were overcome by R and D programs undertaken in most States. The early recognition of the value of the residual nitrogen from a chickpea crop greatly encouraged farmers to persist with the crop despite early problems.
Any claims made by authors in the Australian New Crops Newsletter are presented by the Editors in good faith. Readers would be wise to critically examine the circumstances associated with any claims to determine the applicability of such claims to their specific set of circumstances. This material can be reproduced, with the provision that the source and the author (or editors, if applicable) are acknowledged and the use is for information or educational purposes. Contact with the original author is probably wise since the material may require updating or amendment if used in other publications. Material sourced from the Australian New Crops Newsletter cannot be used out of context or for commercial purposes not related to its original purpose in the newsletter
Contact: Dr Rob Fletcher, School of Land and Food, The University of Queensland Gatton College, 4345; Telephone: 07 5460 1311 or 07 5460 1301; Facsimile: 07 5460 1112; International facsimile: 61 7 5460 1112; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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originally created by:GK; latest update 6 June 1999 by: RF