Evaluating the Dual-Purpose of Chickpea: A Cash and Cover Crop for Agricultural Production Systems in the Southeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2021: $397,648.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2024
Grant Recipients: University of Florida; Florida A&M University
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
md ali babar
University of Florida
Dr. Oscar Liburd
University of Florida
Gabriel Maltais-Landry
University of Florida
Dr. Jorge Ruiz-Menjivar
University of Florida
Dr. Marilyn Swisher
University of Florida
Chris Wilson
University of Florida
Alejandro Bolques
Florida A&M University

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn, peas (field, cowpeas)


  • Crop Production: cover crops, cropping systems, nutrient management
  • Pest Management: cultivation

    Proposal abstract:

    Crop diversification and rotation improve soil nutrition, reduce weed pressure, interrupt disease and pest cycles, reduce risk of crops loss and can increase income for growers. Farmers in North Florida often do not use rotation because crops that they could use in rotation with major crops (corn, peanut, and cotton) produce little or no income. Due to its relatively high value, many growers produce peanut several years in succession, resulting in growing disease, insect and weed pressure. Unpredictable rainfall patterns and high temperatures, both of which may increase in the future, are major challenges for these farmers, threatening both economic and environmental sustainability of their systems. Growers in North Florida express interest in crops that can fit into their annual cropping cycle without disrupting primary crop production and would make their systems more profitable and sustainable. Chickpea, the 2nd most widely consumed food legume, may have potential as a food and cover crop in the off-production season for the main crop. Consumer demand for chickpea has increased significantly as it is gluten free, high in essential amino acids and fiber, and an excellent source of several minerals and antioxidants. Increased demand for chickpea in healthy snacks, salads, vegan foods, and in processed products (hummus) has resulted in increased acreage and production in the US. Chickpea could be a profitable crop in North Florida due to a favorable growing environment and its short winter crop cycle (120-140 days) that would allow it to fit into several cropping systems involving corn, cotton, and vegetables. It may also provide environmental benefits by fixing N, preserving soil moisture, suppressing weeds and breaking pest cycles in rotational crops. Chickpea is also a relatively undemanding crop that remains productive under adverse environmental conditions. It requires minimum post-harvest processing and can be sold through local food venues as well as through commodity chains. It could be profitable for small-scale growers who are willing to develop or cultivate a market through local farmers markets, other direct markets, or for wholesale to smaller distributors. However, to our knowledge, there is no information available on yield, varieties, and management practices for chickpea in Florida and the southeastern US, including how N-fixation inputs and impacts on pest cycles affect rotational crops like corn. To address these knowledge gaps, our multi-disciplinary team including growers, extension agents, and researchers in four departments at the UF and FAMU proposes to investigate the feasibility of chickpea production for corn-based cropping system in Florida. We will: 1) characterize chickpea varieties to identify high yielding, cold tolerant varieties that mature in target windows, 2) assess nitrogen fixation in chickpea, impacts on soil N cycling, and the N-credit to the subsequent crop, 3) assess how chickpea impacts insect pests, beneficial organisms and disease pressure on the rotational crops, 4) analyze costs of production, and 5) disseminate results through UF and FAMU newsletters, websites, and listservs, fact sheets, and on-site and virtual field days, in-service training and county and regional extension educational programs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The aim of this project is to evaluate chickpea to improve our knowledge on this multi-purpose crop and learn whether it can be grown for its full growth potential in the Southern Coastal Plain region as an off-season (winter) dual-purpose crop (cash and cover) in corn production systems. Our evaluation will be based on yield and economic returns, potential N-credits, and impact on major insect pests of the major summer cash crop (corn). We will identify the best maturity chickpea varieties for production (high yielding and nutrient rich) to enhance diversity, and environmental and economical sustainability. The specific objectives are:

    Objective 1: Evaluate yield, nutritional quality and N-fixation of chickpeas integrated into corn cropping systems.

    Objective 2: Assess N-fixation by chickpea and N credit to the subsequent cash crop, by combining 15N tracing at one research site (PSREU) on the three most promising varieties with more traditional N cycling measurements at both research sites and on growers’ fields.

    Objective 3: Measure insect and disease pressure in the rotational crops.
    Objective 4: Evaluate and compare the economic feasibility of production for evaluated chickpea varieties.
    Objective 5: Incorporate stakeholder’ recommendations in the evaluation of project activities, conduct outreach and training, and disseminate findings on the potential dual-purpose of chickpea in agricultural production systems.
    As a prelude of developing these objectives, initially, we screened different Kabuli chickpea varieties of International Center for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) origin at PSREU, Citra and 70 were selected. These 70 chickpea varieties showed cold tolerance and demonstrated to be promising for North Florida growing conditions. The growing cycle of these varieties ranged between mid-November to early April. In another preliminary study to explore the possibility of growing fall sown chickpea in North Florida, we planted drought tolerant (Punjab Noor‐2009) and sensitive (93127) chickpea lines at Plant Science Research and Education Unit (PSREU), Citra, FL. Data were collected on nodule number, height, harvest index, pods/plant, 100-pod and -seed weight and yield and are presented in Tables 1 and 2. The lines were planted in late November. The yield of drought tolerant lines had 1330 lbs/ac and 1850 lbs/acre under rainfed and irrigated conditions, respectively. Our preliminary results demonstrate the potentials of growing chickpea in the winter season in Southern Coaster Plain, however, we need to find out right variety with cold tolerance, disease resistance, best maturity, high yield potential and high N-fixation capacity.

    Table 1: Difference in plant response to traits in drought tolerant (93127) and sensitive (Punjab Noor‐2009) chickpea genotypes planted in Citra, Florida in 2017-18.

    Treatments No of nodules /Plant Plant height (cm)

    Biomass/plant (g) 

    Harvest index (%)
      Sen Tol LSD (0.05) Sen Tol LSD (0.05) Sen Tol LSD (0.05) Sen Tol LSD (0.05)
    Rainfed 10 25 10 36 81 8 38 92 22 32 48 8
    Irrigated 22 30 6 75 80 3 108 103 NS 68 65 NS

    Table 2: Differences in yield and related traits in drought tolerant (93127) and sensitive (Punjab Noor‐2009) chickpea genotypes planted in Citra, Florida in 2017-18.

      Sen Tol LSD (0.05) Sen Tol LSD (0.05) Sen Tol LSD (0.05) Sen Tol LSD (0.05)
    Rainfed 62 113 21 20 48 7 16 28 6 853 1330 220
    Irrigated 121 131 8 48 55 4 29 33 3 1708 1850 80



    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.