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Response of Chickpea to Short Periods of High Temperature and Water Stress at Different Developmental Stages

Y. Gan1,4, J. Wang2, S.V. Angadi3 and C.L. McDonald1

1Semiarid Prairie Agric. Research Centre, Agric. & Agri-Food Canada, Swift Current, SK, S9H 3X2, Canada;
Institute of Desert Meteorology, Chinese Meteorological Administration, 46 Jianguo Road, Urumqi, 830002, China;
Dept. of Soil Science, Univ. of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB. R3T 2N2, Canada. Corresponding author (


A study was conducted to determine the effect of short periods of high temperature and water stress on pod production, seed set and yield of chickpea. ‘Myles’ desi and ‘CDC-Xena’ kabuli chickpea were grown in growth chambers under 20/16C day/night temperatures (as check). High (35/16C) and low (28/16C) temperature stress was imposed for 10 d during flower and pod development. Simultaneously, high (plants remained at 50% available water) and low (at 90% available water) water stress was also imposed. Plants stressed at 35/16C during flowering produced 53% fewer fertile pods on the mainstem and 22% fewer pods on the branches than those kept at 20/16C. Nearly 90% of the pods formed during stress were infertile. Due to high temperature stress, kabuli crop filled 58% of the pods formed and decreased seeds pod-1 by 26% from the check. Consequently, desi chickpea seed yield decreased by 54% when stressed during pod development and 33% when stressed during flowering. Kabuli chickpea seed yield decreased by 50% when stressed during pod formation and 44% when stressed during flowering. In semiarid northern Great Plains, shortening the stress period during reproductive development may increase the yield potential of chickpea.

Media summary

Chickpea subjected to high temperature and water stresses at pod development stage significantly reduces pod fertility and seed yield whereas stress at early stages can be partially recovered.

Key Words

Cicer arietinum, pod fertility, seed size, yield components, stress.


Chickpea is a new crop in semiarid northern Great Plains. Two market classes of chickpea, namely desi, and kabuli, are currently grown in these areas. These crops are often grown under temperature stress for much of the growing season (Angadi et al., 2000; Angadi et al., 2003; Gan et al., 2003b). High temperature stress causes substantial loss in crop yield due to damage to reproductive organs (Paulsen, 1994; Savin and Nicolas, 1996), increased rate of plant development (Entz and Fowler, 1991), and reduced length of the reproductive period (Angadi et al., 2000). The objectives of this study were to determine the effect of high temperature and water stress, alone and in combination, on the yield components of desi and kabuli chickpea when stress was applied during reproductive stages.

Materials and Methods

The experiment was conducted at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre, Swift Current, Canada. ‘Myles’ a desi type, and ‘CDC-Xena’ a kabuli type, were used. Of the kabuli type four seedlots were used: large (CDC Xena-L; 9.1-11.0 mm in diameter), small (CDC Xena-S; 7.1-9.0 mm), CDC Xena-L4, and CDC Xena-S4. The latter two seedlots were obtained from a CDC Xena crop grown from large or small seeds for past four consecutive seasons. Stress treatments were imposed for a 10 d period during early flower and pod developmental stages. Two water stress treatments were imposed simultaneously with temperature treatments; half of the plants were watered to 90% of available water (low water stress), and the other half were watered to 50% of available water (high water stress). Flowers opened during during stress and

Fig. 1. Seed yield per plant produced by a) desi, b) large-seeded kabuli, c) small-seeded kabuli (small seed from previous year), and d) small-seeded (small seed from a small-seeded crop in the previous four years) chickpea stressed at high (35/16 C) and low (26/16 C) temperature during flower and pod developmental stages in comparison with no-stress control (20/16 C). *, ** represent significant at P<0.05 and P<0.01, respectively, between low (90% available water) and high (50% available water) water stress treatments. Bars with the same capital letters did not differ among the temperature stress treatments at a given crop developmental stage.

post-stress periods were monitored by marking the last flower opened before stress imposition and the last flower opened when the plants were removed from the stress cabinets. At harvest, the yield components were determined. Analysis of variance was performed on the data set using the MIXED procedure of SAS (SAS Inst. Inc., 1996).

Results and Discussion

Plants stressed at 35/16C during flowering produced 34% fewer pods in desi chickpea and 29% fewer in kabuli chickpea than the check that remained at 20/16C. The decreased number of pods per plant was due to both decreased pods on mainstem (53%) and on branches (22%). Nearly 90% of the pods formed during the period of high temperature stress were sterile, whereas a portion of the pods produced under the low temperature were fertile.

On average, the desi chickpea produced 129 seeds per 100 pods they formed, whereas the kabuli chickpea produced 71 seeds per 100 pods. Lower number of seeds per pod for the kabuli plants was primarily due to the higher percentage of pods that failed to fill, whereas the greater number of seeds per pod for the desi plants was due to some (9-14%) of the pods containing two seeds. These results indicate that desi chickpea has a better ability to fill the pods they form, while kabuli often produces more pods than can be filled by the available photosynthate supply.

The kabuli chickpea stressed with high temperature during pod development stage produced 26% fewer seeds pod-1 than the check, whereas the high temperature stress imposed during flowering did not affect seeds pod-1. This growth stage effect was largely due to pod-filling recovery during the post-stress period; suggesting that chickpea has a strong ability to redistribute photosynthates produced during the earlier flower stages to the pods later in its life cycle, even though environmental conditions at that time may be stressful.

High temperature and water stress imposed during either flower or pod formation reduced the seed yield of chickpea (Fig. 1). Compared to the control, the 35/16 C temperature stress reduced seed yield by 48% and the high water stress caused yield losses 15%. The detrimental effect of the short-periods of high temperature stress on seed yield was probably due to its direct effect on flower development (reduced pod numbers), pollination and fertilization (reduced seeds per pod), along with indirect effects on photosynthetic assimilation (low biomass).

When the stress was imposed during pod development stage, the loss of seed yield was more significant than when the stress was applied during flower (Fig. 1). On average, the desi chickpea decreased seed yield by 54% from the check when stressed during pod developmental stage whereas the yield loss was 33% when the desi was stressed during flower. Similarly, the kabuli chickpea decreased seed yield by 50% when stressed during pod developmental stage compared to 44% when stressed during flower.

Water availability influenced the degree of post-stress recovery in chickpea. When the plants remained at 90% available water during high temperature stress periods, seed yield reduction was 8 (for kabuli) to 19 (for desi) percentage less than when the plants were at 50% available water. Under the higher water status, plants produced 16% more seeds plant-1 during the post-stress period than the plants that remained at the low water status.

Seed yield of plants grown from large and small seeds responded similarly to the high temperature and water stress (Fig. 1), and there were generally no seed size by stress interactions. The plants grown from the large seed produced 22% more shoot dry matter (data not shown), but this did not translate into seed yield.


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