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Sask. chickpea producers battle disease

Sask. chickpea producers battle disease

Multiple factors might be at play during this challenging growing season

By Michelle Jones

Southern Saskatchewan farmers are seeing widespread Ascochyta blight after receiving large amounts of moisture in July.

Sherrilyn Phelps, the agronomy manager with Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, is monitoring the disease. Producers who applied fungicide before the July rains had a better chance of staving off the blight, she said.

The disease can infect a crop a very short time after a rainfall, she said. But, because of the dry weather in June, some farmers held off on applying fungicides.

When the weather turned in July, producers who had yet to apply fungicides may have fallen a bit behind in managing the blight.

Once the disease is present, producers must apply multiple fungicide applications to prevent it from spreading.

“Because of the moisture and the growing conditions, the chickpeas were growing rapidly once it started raining, so they outgrow the protection from the fungicide very quickly,” Phelps told Farms.com.

“Usually, you can get a 10 to 14-day protection from a fungicide. This year, we’re seeing that with the new, rapid growth, the fungicide protection was only lasting 7 to 10 days,”

Some farmers also received hail, which damaged the chickpea plants and made them more susceptible to the disease.

There is more going on than just the blight, Phelps thinks, but she is unsure of the cause. In many fields, whole leaflets died off the plants and, in a lot of cases, this loss wasn’t related to lesions.

“They can’t be completely explained by the level of disease that’s there. The general feeling right now is that there has been some sort of extra stressors on those chickpea plants that caused them to start blighting or dying off those leaves,” said Phelps.

Growers saw more problems in some varieties than others. The Orion variety, for example, seemed to have increased problems.

“Because Orion has been the most popular variety over the last few years, the chickpea disease may have adapted and found a way to get around that resistance. That (could be) why we’re seeing higher levels from that variety compared to other varieties out there,” Phelps said.

“But we don’t have that (hypothesis) confirmed. It’s just a theory that is part of the whole chickpea issue.”

This variety is also the most popular one in Saskatchewan, which might help to account for the seeming prevalence of the disease.

A higher level of the leaflets also appear to be dying off in areas experiencing root rot or compacted soil. And growers saw herbicide injuries caused by residual herbicides in the soil, carryover or high levels of drift.

So, the difficulties with this year’s chickpea crop may not be related to just one factor, Phelps said.

In a lot of cases, the chickpeas are recovering from the blight, she said. The crop was starting to green-up in early August and resumed flowering. But this delay in maturity could affect crop quality at harvest time.

Producers took many tissue samples in late July to early August and sent them to labs. Technicians are testing to see if anything else other than Ascochyta blight affected the crop.

Nikhil Patil/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

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