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Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality

Managing production constraints to the reliability of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) within marginal areas of the northern grains region of Australia

J. P. M. Whish A C , P. Castor B and P. S. Carberry A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Agricultural Production Systems Research Unit, PO Box 102, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

B Michael Castor and Associates, 58 Marshall St, Goondiwindi, Qld 4390, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 58(5) 396-405
Submitted: 31 May 2006  Accepted: 23 February 2007   Published: 11 May 2007


The poor reliability of chickpea yield produced in the marginal (<600 mm rainfall) areas of the northern cropping zone is a constraint to the wide adoption of the crop. Chickpea is a valuable rotation crop and is currently the only viable winter grain legume suitable to this region. This paper uses results from in-crop monitoring and crop simulation, to identify practical management strategies to improve the reliability of chickpea crops in this region. APSIM-Chickpea successfully simulated the commercial yields of chickpea crops monitored during the study. Soil water at sowing and sowing date were identified as key determinants of yield. A ‘rule of thumb’ was derived, which showed that crops sown with a starting plant-available water of ~100 mm at sowing had an 80% probability of producing a better than break-even yield for the majority of the region and this was independent of the soil’s plant-available water capacity or crop sowing date. The probability of accumulating 100 mm of stored water in this western region is 90% following harvest of a May–sown wheat crop. Increased plant population improved crop yields in 60% of years, but this only translated to improved returns in ~50% of those years. The use of these simple management approaches will improve the reliability of chickpea production and ensure that these marginal areas have the option of a viable winter grain legume in their rotations.

Additional keywords: soil water, PAWC, simulation modelling, water-use efficiency, sowing date.


We thank the staff of MCA, the farmer clients of MCA, and technical staff of CSIRO Toowoomba who assisted in this work. We also thank Michael Robertson for his comments on the manuscript. Financial support from GRDC, MCA Goondiwindi, and CSIRO is duly acknowledged.


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