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Canopy Architecture and Plant Density Effect in Short-Season Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.)



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Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) production on the semi-arid Canadian Prairies is challenging due to a short growing season and low and variable moisture. The current recommended chickpea population density of 44 plants m-2 is based on preliminary studies and a narrow range of 20 to 50 plants m-2. The aims of this study were to i) determine optimum population density of varying chickpea canopy types, i.e., leaf type and growth habit, by investigating seed yield responses at 30 to 85 plants m-2 and ii) identify desirable parental traits for breeding programs by assessing growth and yield parameter responses to varying leaf types and growth habits at a range of population densities. Field experiments were conducted from 2002 to 2005. Canopy measurements and calculated variables included light interception, biomass, growth rate, seed yield, harvest index, ascochyta blight severity and radiation- and water use efficiencies. The plant density which produced the highest seed yield when averaged over years for each location for each treatment revealed that a plant density of at least 55 plants m-2 produced a 23% to 49% seed yield increase above that of the currently recommended plant density. This indicates that a higher seed yield average over the long term in spite of periodic low seed yield episodes will be more profitable to producers. Increasing plant density increased lowest pod height significantly in all except one location-year but did not explicitly increase ascochyta blight severity or decrease individual seed size. This suggests that increasing the recommended chickpea plant density on the Canadian Prairies will increase seed yield but would neither negatively impact individual seed size nor ascochyta blight severity, especially, when combined with good agronomic practices. Fern-leaved cultivars had significantly higher maximum intercepted light (62 to 91%), seed yield (136 to 369 g m-2), harvest index (0.33 to 0.53), yield-based water use efficiency (0.56 to 1.06 g m-2 mm-1) and lower ascochyta blight severity (3 to 27%) than the unifoliate cultivars in all location-years. The fern-leaved cultivars also tended to show significantly higher cumulative intercepted radiation (221 to 419 MJ m-2) and biomass (306 to 824 g m-2) but leaf type showed no consistent effect on radiation use efficiency. Cultivars with bushy growth habit generally performed better regarding maximum intercepted light (62 to 90%), cumulative intercepted radiation (233 to 421 MJ m-2), biomass (314 to 854 MJ m-2), seed yield (120 to 370 g m-2), harvest index (0.37 to 0.50), yield-based water use efficiency (0.56 to 1.06 g m-2 mm-1) and ascochyta blight severity (7 to 36%) than the erect cultivars. The overall performance of the spreading cultivar was generally intermediate between the bushy and erect cultivars except for ascochyta blight severity where the spreading cultivar exhibited significantly lower disease severity (3 to 36%). Radiation use efficiency was generally not influenced by growth habit. Increasing plant population density generally increased intercepted light, biomass and cumulative intercepted radiation on each sampling day after seeding resulting in a general increase in seed yield. Harvest index, however, remained constant and ascochyta blight severity was generally stable but radiation use efficiency decreased with increasing population density. Chickpea cultivars with fern leaves and bushy growth habit at higher than currently recommended population densities would best utilize the limited resources of the short-season Canadian prairie environment to maximize and stabilize seed yield.



light interception, lowest pod height, ascochyta blight, harvest index, spreading, bushy, erect, plant habit, growth habit, unifoliate, fern, leaf type, water use efficiency, radiation use efficiency, Canadian Prairies, semi-arid, short-season, plant population density, canopy architecture, Cicer arietinum L., Chickpea, biomass



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Plant Sciences


Plant Sciences


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