Performance of Kabuli chickpea cultivars with the fern and unifoliate leaf traits in Saskatchewan
Kabuli chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) has two leaf types, the fern and unifoliate. Yield potential is limited for kabuli chickpea in Saskatchewan. It is limited by a short-season, a semi-arid environment, and end-of-season rainfall. Manipulating plant population, and choosing chickpea cultivars with the best leaf type for biomass production, radiation interception and yield for the early, middle, or late growth season, may increase chickpea yield. Therefore, the objectives of this study were: to (i) determine the relationship between leaf type and key growth parameters of six chickpea cultivars varying in leaf morphology at moderate and high plant population densities; (ii) to characterize the reaction of the fern and unifoliate leaf to altered canopy light environments. Different light environments were created by 50% defoliation at vegetative growth, first flower, and 50% shading from vegetative growth to first flower, as well as two light enrichment treatments initiated at the first flower and pod formation stages. Fern leaf cultivars exhibited higher maximum light interception, seasonal cumulative intercepted radiation and a higher harvest index compared to unifoliate leaf cultivars. However, both leaf type canopies had less than 95% light interception for most of the season. The fern and unifoliate leaf type contributed to similar radiation use efficiency in three out of four location-years. In addition, fern leaf cultivars produced significantly higher seed yield than cultivars with unifoliate leaves. Plant density influenced growth parameters. For example, the 45 plants m⁻² treatment had a higher harvest index than the 85 plants m⁻² treatment, in two location-years, while both population treatments were similar in the other two location-years. Yield of chickpea was increased by higher plant population in only one location-year, but was not significantly affected by plant population in the other location-years. The effect of canopy light environment manipulation on chickpea yield depended on the stages of plant development when they were applied. Defoliation at vegetative growth and first flower had no effect on yield. However, plants responded significantly to the 50% shade treatment; the crop growth rate, harvest index and yield were less in the shaded treatment compared to the control. Shading also increased plant height. Light enrichment treatments increased the yield. However, the degree of yield increase was greater when light enrichment occurred at first flower, than at the later stage of pod formation. These results highlighted the importance of the amount of irradiance during the flowering stage. It was concluded that chickpea breeders should select lines with fern leaves for improved radiation interception when breeding cultivars for semiarid short-season environments such as in Saskatchewan. Management and breeding practices should ensure that the crop can make efficient use of the solar radiation at flowering to maximize yield. Improvement at the canopy and subsequent yield level is yet to be made in Saskatchewan environments by increased light interception, increased growth before flowering, and increased and stable harvest index.
plant science, kabuli chickpea, crop physiology, best leaf type, Saskatchewan
Master of Science (M.Sc.)