Bengal Gram / Chana/ chickpea Cultivation and Farming in India
Did you know that India produces more than 65% of the Chickpea consumed worldwide? This makes India the leader in chickpea production. in 2020 India produced 11080 thousand metric tonnes of chickpeas and the nearest competitor is turkey which produced 630 thousand metric tonnes of chickpeas during that period. The gap in chickpea production is huge which makes India the leader in the production of chickpeas. reference: https://www.statista.com/statistics/722203/chickpeas-production-volume-by-country-worldwide/
Chickpea is referred to as chana, Kabuli chana, Bengal gram, gram brown gram or white gram. in India, it’s mostly referred to as chana. When referring to specific types it’s either referred to as Kabuli chana for the white variety or desi chana for the brown variety. The process of cultivation of chana is not as tedious as many other crops but the right time and climatic conditions play a major role in chana cultivation. Success and failure depend on when you cultivate chana.
Chana, its use in Indian and worldwide cuisine and its market
Chana is consumed widely. In India, it’s consumed as a pulse, in ground form as besan, and as a whole dried and fresh chana. Fresh chana is a very seasonal product and its available rarely in the market during the peak season. most people would have consumed fresh chana or chole in restaurants or at home. in ground form, everyone would have had bhajia at some point in their life and for some who are in the northern part of India, besan ka laddoo is not new. Besan is consumed for its taste but more importantly, it’s consumed by vegetarians as a means to gain more protein. Chana has 21% protein. Every 100 Grams you consume gives you 21 grams of protein in your diet. It’s healthy because it has low fat at 4% and good carb at 60%.
talking about the international market, chana is consumed widely in Greece, Italy and turkey. Hummus, a common food in these areas mainly constitute of chickpeas. Every country has their version of chickpea food. For instance, Argentina has faina, Bhajans in Mauritius, Socca in Italy and so on. unlike some pulses like soy, the chickpea is liked by many people all around the world as it has a good flavour even when just boiled with salt!
Farming practices and packages in India
Chickpeas, may it be black or Kabuli chickpea has the same farming practices with very small changes. The seed quantity will vary and the distance between plants will vary. Apart from these small differences, everything else will be just about the same. The right variety of seeds is more important and we will discuss the same in the seed selection section.
Before you begin chickpea cultivation it’s important to understand chickpea as a plant. The plant originated in southwestern Asia, but some speculate it to be in Europe. they are winter crops or Rabi crops. They are leguminous plants with tap roots. being a leguminous plant, the chickpea requires very less nitrogen input into the farm. In general, too, chickpea requires very less nutritional input. they are long-day plants and do not tolerate frost, especially during the flowering stage. the seed to harvest time varies from 145 days to 165 days. the plants are self-pollinated. they have tap roots and require slight nitrogen nutrients to grow for the first 30 days or till the secondary and tertiary roots develop
Season & Climate for Cultivation: the best temperature to grow chickpeas is from 20 degrees to 25 degrees Celcius. chickpea is a winter crop but does not tolerate frost. temperature below 5 degrees will result in wilting. if the temperature is low during the flowering season the entire crop may perish and the farmer will have no control over it. October is the best time to sow chickpeas. farmers in Madhya Pradesh should sow chickpeas between the first and twentieth of October for best results. this time is best suited for reduced pests and diseases. Chickpea is a rabi crop.
- Ideal Soil for Cultivation: chickpea grows best in lumpy clay soil or soil that is clay loam. the soil ph is best if between 6 and 8 . though the plants will grow in a variety of soil including black soil, its results are best in clay soil and clay loam soil.
- Varieties of chickpeas: There are 2 types of chickpeas, the desi and the Kabuli variety. Most farmers cultivate desi chickpeas and the production of desi chickpeas is higher than Kabuli chana. each of these types has its own set of varieties. Common Varieties preferred by farmers for desi types are ICCC37, JG11, JG130 and Jaki 9218. these varieties mature between 90 and 110 days. For the Kabuli type, the most preferred varieties are ICCV2, KAK2, JGK1, Vihar, and LBeG7. These varieties are heavier and mature between 85 and 110 days.
- Sowing: Sowing starts in October. Depending on your area and the pests and disease conditions, farmers may sow a bit earlier or later. Early sowing will prevent pod borers and late sowing will prevent wilting in Chickpea. if you have any of these conditions and one is more prevalent than the other, sowing time varies. Sowing should be done at a depth of 8 to 10 centimeters. a minimum of 8 centimeters is recommended.
- Land Preparation: adding organic matter is recommended to help the initial growth of the plant. a ploughing and 2 harrowing followed by levelling are all that is required when it comes to land preparation. Adding compost or FYM will reduce urea input. note that the soil should be lumpy so the rotovator is not to be used. a normal chisel plough with 9 or 5 tyne is recommended. Deep ploughing is essential.
- Planting Spacing and Density: The spacing and density of the plants vary from each type. While the desi varieties are planted at a distance of 30X10 centimetres, the Kabuli variety is sown at 45X10 centimetres. This also affects the seed requirement a bit. Sowing depth should be at least 8 centimetres and the maximum recommended depth is 10 centimetres. Being a large seed, the seeds need to be deeper than the lighter, smaller seeds.
- Intercropping: intercropping is not practised with chickpeas. chickpea is a large-scale crop and interfering with other crops with chickpeas may be detrimental to chickpeas, but beneficial for other crops. with chickpeas as your primary crop, you should refrain from intercropping it with any other crops.
- Irrigation: Chickpea requires minimal irrigation. If the crops are rainfed, crops rarely require manual intervention for irrigation. When irrigated crops, the plants require to be irrigated pre-sowing, on 30 days and the 50th day. Since the soil is usually clay soil and the water retention is relatively high, the plants should be able to hold on to the water for longer periods without stress. Excessive irrigation is not recommended.
- Fertilizers: Chickpea requires very less fertilisers. The total fertilizer requirement is 20 kg of urea, 40 kg of Phosphorus and 20 kg of potash for the entire growth cycle. The area is required as a basal application and can usually be removed if there is organic matter in the soil to balance in the form of FYM at 20 tonnes per hectare. being a legume, chickpea creates their own nitrogen fertilizers from the environment after the 30th day.
- Posts: Moths, Pod borers and wilting are common diseases and pests in chickpeas. Application of the right pesticides when pests are noticed is recommended.
- Nipping: Nipping is the process of removing the top part of the plant when it reaches a height of 30 centimetres. this is done from the 20th to the 30th day from sowing. Nipping promotes branching and secondary branches. The pods are present in the secondary branches and it’s important to nip the plants to promote more secondary branches to increase branching, flowering and thus more yield.
- Harvesting: Harvesting begins when the leaves start turning yellow and droop. Harvesting is done by cutting down the entire plant. They are stacked in the field if the climatic conditions allow and if rain is not a possibility in the next 5-6 days. Else the harvested plants are moved to a location where they can be protected from weather conditions. the harvested plants are left to dry for 5-6 days in the sun before threshing.
- Post Harvest: once the pods are all dry and the moisture content is 10-12 % the pods are trashed. the seeds are collected and stored in a gunny sack away from moisture. chickpea once it reaches a 10% moisture rate has a long shelf life and can be sold to the market immediately or when the price is right.
- Yield: The average yield of chickpeas is between 20 and 25 Quintals per hectare. this is a fluctuating value and depends on the area of cultivation, the type of chickpea and the variety of the chickpea too. A significant difference is seen in rainfed and irrigated crops too.
- Area of cultivation: Madhya Pradesh has the largest cultivation of chickpeas. Around 40% of all chickpea in India comes from Madhya Pradesh. Other states are Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Very few states do not cultivate chickpeas at all and this includes Kerala, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh and the northern states like Kashmir and the eastern states like Nagaland.
- Market information: Chickpea has a standard market and rarely fluctuates. the price has steadily increased at 3-5% every year and there has been a seasonal decrease or increase depending on the availability of the product. Chickpea is a crop where the produce has a long shelflife. There are also byproducts of chickpeas which makes them a viable crop for farmers where wastage is minimal.
- Weed Control: Weed management is essential for the first 50 days till the plants are well established and cover the ground area. Pre-emergence weedicide is recommended and application of weedicide or manual weeding on the 30th and 50 the day is recommended. application of fluchloralin and Pendimethalin has been advised by agricultural universities
- Seed: Acquire quality seeds from reputed sources. the quality of the seed ensures great plants with high yields and low diseases. The variety depends on the area and it’s important to find out more from the nearest agricultural universities. A seed rate of 70-80 kg for desi chana and 90 to 100 kg for Kabuli chana is recommended.