Learning methods to make chickpea cultivation profitable

Background of chickpea cultivation

Chickpea, Cicer arietinum is commonly known as Bengal gram, Gram and Chana is the most important pulse crop in India. It is used for human consumption as well as animal feed for cattle. It is mainly consumed for its nutritionally high protein, fibre and potassium content. It can be eaten both whole fried or boiled and salted or more generally in the form of split pulse which is cooked and eaten along with recipes. Chickpea is considered to have medicinal effects as it is used for preventing high blood pressure, osteoporosis, colorectal cancer and heart problems. In recent times mechanization in chickpea is playing an important role especially at the time of harvest.

Climatic conditions

Chickpea is a winter season crop but severe cold and frost are injurious to it. Frost at the time of flowering results in the failure of flowers to develop seeds or in seed death inside the pods. It is generally grown under rainfed conditions, however under irrigated regimes chickpea returns are higher. Excessive rains soon after sowing or at flowering and fruiting or hail storms at ripening stage can cause heavy crop loss. It is best suited to areas having moderate rainfall of 60-90 cm per annum. The plant of chickpea is bushy and grows up to 18 inches in length. It grows best between 70-80 degrees during the day and needs 65-degree temperature at night.

Types of chickpea

Commonly two types of chickpea are grown in India viz., desi chana and kabuli chana. Desi chana is extensively grown in the country, however the varieties are small darker seeds with a rough seed coat. Seeds are lack, green or speckled, which are hulled and split to make chana dal. Kabuli' chana varieties are lighter-coloured, larger, and with a softer seed coat.


Chickpea is grown on wide range of soils in India, but they thrive well in sandy loam to clay loam soils. The best type of soils for chickpea is that it is well drained and not too heavy soils. On dry and light soils, plants remain short while on heavy soils having high water retention capacity, the vegetative growth is abundant, light becomes limiting factor and fruiting is eventually retarded. The soil chosen for chickpea cultivation should be free from excessive soluble salts and near neutral in reaction. Water logging soils and saline soils are not suitable for cultivating especially when soil pH is 8.5 or higher.

Chickpea Cultivation

Field Preparation to cultivate chickpea with success

Chickpea is highly sensitive to soil aeration. It is desirable to go for deep ploughing during the monsoon as the same would help in conservation of rainwater in the soil for subsequent use by this crop. To conserve moisture, the soil is cultivated with an animal-drawn/tractor-drawn blade harrow attached to a heavy wooden log which also helps in weed control. Shallow cultivation with a country plough is done late in the evening for light soils, quite frequently in order to conserve moisture. 

Sowing time

Second fortnight of October is the optimum time for sowing in most of the chickpea growing areas of northern India. In peninsular India, the first fortnight of October has been considered as the ideal time for chickpea sowing.  Early sowing of chickpea can result in excessive vegetative growth and poor setting of pods. The early sown crop also suffers more from wilt owing to high temperatures during the season.

Methods of sowing

Generally chickpea is grown as a rain fed crop. If the soil moisture is not sufficient for sowing, irrigation after sowing can be very useful for germination. The crop may be sown by seed drill or sown behind the local plough. Sowing should be done at 5-10 cm depth with enough moisture with an inter row spacing of 30 cm and intra row spacing of 10 cm is recommended. If the irrigation source is available and if bold seeded kabuli type is the chosen variety then inter row spacing of 45 to 60 cm can be maintained. While sowing, care should be taken to maintain an average of 33 plants per square meters. There are tractor drawn seed cum ferti drills that are helpful in maintaining desired plant density.

Chickpea seed rate

Medium size bold seed type, bold seeded type, and High bold seeded type varieties require 30-35, 45-50 and 60-70 kg seed per ha respectively. Seeds should be treated with recommended pesticides. When chickpea is grown for first time in the field seed treatment with rhizobium should be done at the rate of 200 g of rhizobium (200 g of rhizobium is enough for 8 kg of seed) mixed with 300 ml of 10 % jaggery solution mixed thoroughly and shade dried before sowing them. Always treat the seed with pesticides first before exposing to rhizobium culture is administered.

Manure and fertilizer applications

Chickpea is a leguminous crop therefore it can meet its own nitrogen requirement (about 75%) through symbiotic nitrogen fixation in the soil, three to four weeks after sowing. It is recommended that 5 tons of farm yard manure per ha can be mixed in the soil during the last plough at the end of field preparation. Previous crop residues can also be incorporated in the soil with a Rotovator. However, soils with low organic matter and poor nitrogen supply may still require 20-25 kg per hectare of nitrogen fertilizer. Besides nitrogen, pulses respond very favourably to the phosphorus application especially through 2 kg of Phosphobacter (biofertilizer) mixed with 200 kg of organic fertilizer in the last plough or while sowing seeds can be applied within crop rows. Over all at an average of 15-20 kg of nitrogen, 20 kg of phosphorus, 8 kg of potash along with 40 kg of sulphur per ha are recommended for chickpea.

Water requirement of the chickpea plant

Chickpea is mostly sown in rainfed conditions, on an average the crop requires 350 mm of water. Pre-sowing irrigation is necessary where irrigation facilities are available since it ensures proper germination and good vegetative growth. Based on the soil moisture, one or two light irrigations should be provided during the crop cycle. Yields can be improved if irrigation is provided at just before flowering (30-35 days after sowing) and at the pod formation stage (55-65 days after sowing). Heavy irrigation is always harmful to chickpea crop because excess irrigation enhances vegetative growth and decreases  chickpea yield. Therefore avoiding water logging and maintaining light irrigations is critical to attain higher yields.

Weed Control

Chickpea being a short stature crop suffers severely with weed infestations. One hand weeding or inter-culture with hand hoe or wheel hoe after 25-30 days and second if needed after 60 days of sowing will take care of weeds. Hand weeding or inter culture with the help of hoe is always better than herbicides because intercultural operations improve aeration in the soil.

Harvesting and Threshing the chickpea

Crop should be harvested when leaves start to senesce and start shedding, pods turn yellow, plants are dry, and seed feels hard and rattles within the pod. Chickpea matures in 3 months, after harvest, the plants can be dried in the sun for a few days to ensure that seeds get dried well. Threshing and winnowing can be done using commercially available power threshers. Chickpea yields can be up to 1.6 tonnes per hectare.

For insect pests and diseases

Please refer to Plantix for management.