Chickpeas - Really?

Chickpea consumption has increased dramatically in recent years. Hummus consumption alone has increased about 5% annually over the past ten years. This trend is expected to continue.
Chickpeas - Really? - Articles


Chickpea field on May 18, 2015

According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center: "One cup of cooked chickpeas contains: 164 percent of the daily value of molybdenum, which is a major component of the enzyme that detoxifies sulfites; 70.5 percent of the daily value of folate, 84 percent of the daily value of manganese, 29 percent of the daily value of protein and 49 percent of the daily value of fiber. Chickpeas have been known to prevent blood sugar from rising and to lower cholesterol. They are an excellent source of energy." In addition to being a good value added product, hummus is also a profitable way to sell additional ingredients like roasted red peppers, garlic and other herbs at a premium.

Can we grow chickpeas in Pennsylvania? Yes we can. There are two growers in Columbia County that grew a total of 16 acres in 2015. Before you get your planter out and load it up with chickpeas there are a few things you need to know about this crop.

Chickpeas are hardy

They can be planted early because they germinate in soils that are 46 to 50 degrees. The crop tolerates spring frosts and also tolerates high temperatures during bloom. It is typically planted on thirty inch rows with a planter but also lends itself to hand planting for small scale production. Plants should be 4" within the row. It takes 150 to 170 pounds of seed per acre. There are two main types of chickpeas, kabuli and desi. Kabuli is the most common. Varieties with better disease tolerance include Dwelley, Evans, Sierra, and Sanford. Macarena has larger seed size and better yield but is susceptible to Ascochyta blight.

Chickpeas are a legume

They grow similar to a pea or soybean. They stand better than a pea but not as well as a soybean. They develop into a branched plant that reaches 30" to 36" in height. The pods form on the upper portion of the plant. Most pods have only one pea with about 20% of the pods having two peas. Chickpeas are an indeterminate plant so they continue to bloom until frost. Another challenging plant characteristic is that the older chickpea pods will shatter. Harvest should be completed in late September to maximize yield and quality. The pea quality will be compromised if they stand in the field too long. The optimum harvest window is significantly narrower than with soybeans.

Metal and Pursuit were the herbicides used by the Columbia County growers in 2015. Most of the acreage was no-tilled but a few acres were tilled. The herbicides did a good job of controlling most weeds in the tilled and no-tilled areas. Marestail was a problem in one of the fields. The half of that field that was tilled had good marestail control. The half that was no-tilled was taken over by the marestail.

The major disease concern of chickpeas in Pennsylvania is Ascochyta blight. It attacks the foliage, stems and seed pods. A fungicide trial was conducted in Columbia County in 2015 to determine if we can effectively control Ascochyta blight and which fungicides work the best. Three fungicide applications were applied. The first application was at early bloom, July 2, 2015. The second two weeks later, July 16, 2015, and the third was two weeks later, July 30, 2015.

Fungicide treatments that were applied to each 12' X 30' plot

  1. Priaxor, Headline, Headline
  2. Bravo, Headline, Headline
  3. Bravo, Proline, Proline
  4. Proline, Proline, Proline
  5. Headline, Proline, Proline
  6. Bravo, Bravo, Bravo

The treatments containing Proline had the least amount of disease in September with the Bravo treatments being second best. The Priaxor and Headline gave the least amount of Ascochyta blight control in 2015.

Chickpeas can be easily harvested with a combine. The pods are easy to strip from the vines by hand for small scale production. Separating the peas from the pods by hand is time consuming. Yields typically range from 30 to 40 bushels per acre.

The market value is yet to be determined. While demand has increased, local markets have not developed to meet that demand. There is excellent potential for small scale production of chickpea products like hummus. We've established that we can grow the raw product here. Will you be the first in your area to develop this market?

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