Pulse School: Early detection of ascochyta blight in chickpea

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Disease management can make or break any given crop year, and on this episode of the Pulse School we are taking a look at chickpeas and the most important disease to scout for, ascochyta blight.

Dr. Michelle Hubbard is a research scientist in pulse pathology with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. She says disease prevention starts before putting seed in the ground by way of proper planning. A good portion of that planning can be found in well-thought-out crop rotations.

Hubbard says chickpeas should have a three to four year gap between seeding on the same field and even neighbouring fields should be free of chickpea stubble because it can harbour the disease as well.

Outside of crop rotations, Hubbard says intercropping could also be a good strategy for minimizing disease risk. Farmers may look at growing flax and chickpeas together in the same field, either in the same row or on alternating rows.

Early scouting and detection is key in order to keep chickpeas in good health through the growing season, she says. When the plant is around the seven to eight node stage is when growers or agronomists should be going through the crop looking for the disease.

“What you’re looking for is small black dots on the stems and the leaves. And these dots can be easily mistaken for dirt. So the way to do it is, first of all, you have to really get out close with the plants, you can’t just walk through the field or drive by. And then if you see black dots, give them a little rub and see if they come off. If they do, chances are it’s dirt. If not, it’s likely disease,” says Hubbard.

If not spotted at the seven to eight node stage, Hubbard suggest farmers revisit the field within seven to ten days. If conditions are ideal for growth, being wet and on the cooler side, the disease could show up within three to five days and farmers should adjust scout timing accordingly.

Listen to the full episode below to learn on what to look for once ascochyta blight starts to infect other areas of the plant and what can, and is, being done about the disease.

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