Legume Research

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Legume Research, volume 44 issue 10 (october 2021) : 1247-1253

Impact of Irrigation Methods, Irrigation Scheduling and Mulching on Seed Yield and Water Productivity of Chickpea (Cicer arietinum)

P.R. Kumar1, Santosh S. Mali1,*, A.K. Singh1, B.P. Bhatt2
1ICAR-Research Complex for Eastern Region, Farming System Research Centre for Hill and Plateau Region, Ranchi-834 010, Jharkhand, India.
2ICAR-Research Complex for Eastern Region, Patna-800 014, Bihar, India.
  • Submitted02-07-2019|

  • Accepted21-10-2019|

  • First Online 03-12-2019|

  • doi 10.18805/LR-4188

Cite article:- Kumar P.R., Mali S. Santosh, Singh A.K., Bhatt B.P. (2021). Impact of Irrigation Methods, Irrigation Scheduling and Mulching on Seed Yield and Water Productivity of Chickpea (Cicer arietinum) . Legume Research. 44(10): 1247-1253. doi: 10.18805/LR-4188.
An experiment was conducted to test the efficacy of irrigation methods and mulching in seed production of chickpea. Irrigation methods included drip with mulch (DM), drip without mulch (DNM) and check basin (CB) irrigation. Drip irrigation was scheduled at 1-day, 2-day and 7 days interval, while farmers’ practice of check basin irrigation at 7-day interval was considered as control. Plant parameters like height, horizontal spread, dry matter, root length and root spread, and number of pods were significantly influenced by irrigation levels and mulch. Seed yield of 17.7 and 16.8 q/ha was recorded for DM having 1-day and 2-day interval, respectively, which was about 82 and 73% higher over the control. The harvest index increased with increasing irrigation interval and was highest (57.4) under treatments with longer irrigation interval (DM7, DNM7 and CB7). Drip irrigation at 1-day and 2-day interval recorded the water productivities of 0.54 and 0.52 kg/m3, respectively as against 0.30 kg/m3 recorded in farmers practice. Polythene mulch with drip irrigation at 2-day irrigation interval is recommended for improving the yields and water productivity of chickpea cultivated under eastern plateau and hill region of India. 
Chickpea is an important pulse crop grown and consumed all over the world. Globally, India is the largest producer of chickpea and contributes 70% of world’s chickpea production (Muehlbauer and Sarker, 2017). In India, chickpea is grown in 22 states and two union territories and accounts for 35% of total area under pulses and 45% of total pulse production in India (Singh, 2014). Although area under this crop has seen a gradual increase from 7.57 million hectares in 1950-51 to 9.93 million hectares in 2013-14 with a productivity rise from 4.82 q/ha to 9.60 q/ha in this period (FAOSTAT, 2018), the seed replacement rate of chickpea is still very low (23.3%) (Singh, 2014). Against a requirement of 6.3 million quintals of chickpeas seeds each season, only 1.25 million quintals of quality seed is available to the farmers (Singh, 2014). In order to meet future demands, it is imperative to develop location specific technologies to obtain high economic returns from the seed production of chickpea.
Chickpea crop is recognized for its resilience under restricted water availability. It relies more on residual soil moisture during germination, establishment and early growth. Additional water supply through irrigation at later stages in the season particularly during grain filling stage plays critical role in improving yield and water productivity of chickpea.
Chickpea crop is generally relegated to marginal lands and many times no supplementary irrigation is provided. However, there are reports indicating improvement in several growth indices including yield of chickpea when supplementary irrigation is given (Moemeni et al., 2013). Quality of seed is sensitive to water stress. Excessive water stress during the critical stages may adversely affect the seed quality (Chauhan et al., 2016). Further, the water holding capacity of alfisols of eastern plateau and hill region (EPHR) is low and poses severe challenges to improve production and productivity of chickpea. Under such circumstances, the problem of maintaining soil moisture at adequate levels is further aggravated on account of high evapotranspiration demand of the atmosphere during the grain filling stage. Findings of Halagalimath and Rajkumara (2018) emphasise the importance of irrigation management for increasing seed yield of chickpea. This calls for continuous improvement of irrigation practices and careful planning of the irrigation scheduling. The technology of modern drip irrigation developed in the 1960s marked a significant step in the history of irrigation science (Camp, 1998). Many recent studies have proved the advantages of drip irrigation over surface methods of irrigation in terms of water saving, improved economic returns and increased yields and water use efficiency (Tagar et al., 2012; Biswas et al., 2015; Mali et al., 2017; Mali et al., 2019; Birbal et al., 2013).
Researchers have also advocated application of polythene mulch in drip irrigated vegetable crops. Application of polythene mulch in combination with drip irrigation can reduce the evaporation loss and can improve crop yields (Sarkar and Sarkar, 2019). This highlights the importance of irrigation management in chickpea crop. However, when comparing drip with surface irrigation, the main questions refer to the performance of the irrigation systems and to irrigation scheduling (Barragan et al., 2010). Kadam et al., (2014) has reported a more effective consumptive use of water and recorded water saving to the tune of 57.14 per cent as compared to flood irrigation in chickpea by application of water through mini-sprinkler. In light of above observations, it is very essential to evolve irrigation technologies which could enhance the water productivity of chickpea seed production in the Eastern Plateau and Hill Region (EPHR) of India.
The review suggested that studies on irrigation scheduling for drip irrigated chickpea cultivated under the sub-humid climates of EPHR of India are very scarce. No specific study is available that clearly puts forth the irrigation schedule for this crop. In order to increase the production and productivity of drip irrigated chickpea, it is imperative to study the impact of different scheduling practices under mulched and un-mulched conditions. In the light of above facts, a study was undertaken to assess the effect of different irrigation schedules and mulching practices on yield and water productivity of chickpea with the aim of developing irrigation practices for the chickpea crop cultivated in EPHR.
Experimental site description
The present study was conducted during winter season of 2016 and 2017 at Ranchi (23°16' N - 50°85' E and 629 m amsl) located in the EPHR of India. Climate of Ranchi is sub-humid with hot and dry summers (Tmax: 37°C and Tmin: 20°C) and cool winters (Tmax: 22°C and a Tmin: 2°C) with average annual rainfall of about 1350 mm and annual evaporation of about 1962.7 mm. Soil samples collected at five random sites in the experimental field were analysed to determine major physical and chemical properties in top 30 cm soil layer (Table 1). The soil in experimental plot was sandy loam with acidic reaction (pH=5.48) and the field capacity (θFC) and wilting point (θWP) values were 26.3 and 10.4 %, respectively. The bulk density of the soil was 1.59 g cm-3.

Table 1: Physical and chemical properties of the soil (top 30 cm) in experimental plot.

Design of field experiments
The experiment was laid out in randomised block arrangement with seven treatments replicated 4 times. The experimental plot of size 50 × 42 m was divided into 30 subplots of size 10 × 6 m leaving 1m isolation strip between each plot as well as on both sides of the field. Drip irrigation had two treatments, one with mulch (DM) and the other was without mulch (DNM). Drip irrigation was scheduled at 1-day (DM2, DNM2), 2-day (DM2 and DNM2) and 7 day (DM7 and DNM7) irrigation intervals. In case of drip irrigation method, the treatment on 7 day irrigation frequency was included to evaluate the effectiveness of drip irrigation for the same irrigation frequency as followed in farmers practice. Since, the evaporation losses under un-mulched drip system would be more, a treatment on 2-day irrigation frequency was also included to test the hypothesis that two day irrigation frequency may perform better over 7 day frequency of irrigation. These treatments were laid out against a check (control) representing the usual farmers’ practice which consisted of check basin irrigation at 7 day intervals with 5 cm water applied in check basins (CB7). Black polythene mulch of 50 micron thickness was used to cover the soil surface under mulched treatments. The irrigations were scheduled from the day of sowing and continued till 10days before crop harvesting.
Sowing was done at a spacing of 30 cm × 10 cm uniformly in all the treatments. During the cropping seasons of 2016 and 2017, the chickpea crop was sown on 17th November 2016 and 21st November 2017 and was harvested on 20th March 2017 and 24th March 2018, respectively. The chickpea seeds were dibbled on the centre of the raised beds for drip irrigation treatments whereas for check basin method the sowing was done on flat beds with the same planting geometry. In all cases the seeds were treated with contact fungicide and rhizobium culture.
Evaluated variables
The drip irrigations were applied as per the crop water requirements estimated using FAO 56 approach as presented in (Allen et al., 1998). Reference evapotranspiration (ET0) was estimated using pan evaporation (Ep) data collected from the field meteorological observatory located at about 250 m away from the experimental site. Crop evapotranspiration was determined using following equation (Doorenbos and Pruitt, 1977).
ET0=(Ep×Kp× Kc×A)/h
ET0 is reference crop evapotranspiration, Ep is evaporation from Class A pan (mm),  Kc is crop coefficient and h is the efficiency of drip irrigation system, assumed as 95% in this study. The pan coefficient value of 0.75 was adopted to convert pan evaporation in to reference crop evapotranspiration as suggested in FAO-56 for high relative humidity (RH>70) and moderate wind speed (2-5 m/s) conditions prevailing in the study area (Allen et al., 1998). The Kc values opted during initial, middle and end stage of chickpea were 0.4, 1.15 and 0.55 respectively (Allen et al., 1998).
The effective rainfall was predicted using dependable rainfall method as suggested in FAO CROPWAT model and was used to adjust the irrigation water requirement of chickpea crop. The water productivity of chickpea seed production was determined using following equation as suggested in Kanber et al., (1992).
WP is the water productivity of chickpea (kg/m3), Y is chickpea seed yield (kg/ha) and ETc is seasonal evapotranspiration of the crop (m3/ha).
Plant height was measured at maturity stage from the base of the plant to the top of the main shoot. Basal primary branches emerging directly from the main shoot were counted. Pods of 5 plants selected randomly from the net plot were counted and the average number of pods per plant. The weight of crop biomass (biological yield) including root and above-ground shoot with pods, stem and foliage was recorded. The harvested plants in the net plot (excluding the border rows) were threshed, dried and cleaned to record the seed yield. The net plot yield was converted to quintal per hectare. A random sample of 100 seeds was drawn from the final seed produce under each treatment and weighed on a precision balance to record its mass to the nearest gram. Root length was measured after uprooting the plant with a shovel along with a block of soil 40 cm in depth and 35 cm in diameter followed by washing the root portion. The harvest index is the ratio of seed yield to biological yield and was estimated using following equation.
All the data pertaining to biometric parameters, yield and yield attributes were statistically analysed using one-way ANOVA (p<0.01) to assess the significance of the treatments. The statistical analysis was performed using the SPSS package (v.21).
Crop water requirement

The daily ETc values for the growing season are presented in the Fig 1. The seasonal ETc of chickpea for the growing season was 325 mm. The daily crop evapotranspiration increased with the advancement of the season reaching its peak in the second week of February. The decline in crop evapotranspiration at the end stage was mainly due to senescence and reduced evapotranspiration demand by the crops.

Fig 1: Daily crop evapotranspiration (ETc) during the crop growth period.

Plant biometric parameters
Application of plastic mulch significantly improved the plant height. At daily irrigation interval (1-day), treatment with plastic mulch (DM1) showed the highest plant height of 75.93 cm, while it was 65.70 cm under no-mulch treatment (DNM1). As compared to check basin method (CB7), the plant height under these treatments was 46 and 26% higher. Frequent irrigations resulted in better plant growth as compared to treatments having larger irrigation interval. When irrigation was applied at 1-day interval, the plant spread was maximum under DM1 and DNM1 (61.98 and 60.85 cm, respectively) and it was lowest in case of CB7 (25.65cm). At 1-day irrigation interval, application of plastic mulch did not show significant effect on plant spread during 2017 (Table 2). This implies that regular irrigation, with or without mulch, results in higher vegetative growth.

Table 2: Plant biometric parameters as affected by irrigation interval, mulching and irrigation methods.

The number of branches was significantly affected by irrigation methods and scheduling. Application of irrigation at 1-day (DM1) and 2-day (DM2) irrigation with mulch resulted in more number of branches (18.33 and 17.19 branches/plant) as compared with irrigation on same intervals without mulch (DNM1 and DNM2). Better vegetative growth (plant height, plant spread and number of branches) achieved under treatments having 1-day and 2-day irrigation interval may lead to higher photosynthetic activity which manifests into increased crop yields (Mafakheri et al., 2010).
Irrespective of irrigation method or application of mulch, the dry matter production under 7 days irrigation interval was lowest in both years. Comparing among irrigation intervals, treatments with 1 and 2 day irrigation interval showed significant difference in 2016 while during 2017 it was insignificant. Dry matter production under the treatments with 7 day interval (DM7 and DNM7) was 1.6 and 12.4% less than that obtained under farmers practice (CB7). It is obvious that under limited water supplies the dry matter production will be adversely affected (Muniyappa et al., 2017).
Chickpea root characteristics were also significantly influenced by irrigation and mulch treatments. Higher root depth was observed in treatments with longer (7 day) irrigation intervals. For treatments with more frequent irrigation (DM1, DM2, DNM1 and DNM2), there was no significant difference between root length recorded under mulched and non-mulched plots. Length of tap roots was shortest when irrigation was applied at 1-day and 2-day intervals. Under longer irrigation intervals the root length was observed to be maximum under DM7 (14.38 cm), DNM7 (14.78 cm) and CB7 (14.07 cm) treatments (Table 3). Continuous availability of soil moisture in the root zone under DM1, DM2, DNM1 and DNM2 treatments led to reduced root length with treatment DNM2 showing the least root length of 8.57 cm.

Table 3: Root growth parameters of chickpea as affected by irrigation interval, mulching and irrigation methods.

At 1-day irrigation interval, the root spread under mulched condition was about 19% higher as compared to non-mulched condition. Previous researchers (Benjamin and Nielsen, 2006) have also demonstrated that root length increased with application of plastic mulch. Previous  reports  have  showed that  large  root  length improved yield under water-limited conditions but not under non-stressor one cycle  of  moisture stress  (Mambani  and Lal,  1983;  Kumar et al., 2010). The root spread exhibited an opposite trend as compared to root depth. More frequent scheduling of irrigation tended to increase the spread of roots and at the same time mulching resulted in higher spread of root as compared to non-mulch plots. Root spread recorded under the treatments with 7 days interval showed that CB7 had better root spread (10.03cm) over drip systems with and without mulch. The 1-day irrigation interval resulted in wider root spread as compared to 2-day irrigation interval. Mulching too, had a significant effect on root spread (Table 3). In a particular irrigation interval, drip irrigation with mulch resulted in higher root spread than that under drip irrigation without mulch. There is also evidence that the moisture stress resulting from higher irrigation intervals leads to elongation of roots (Benjamin and Nielsen, 2006).
Yield attributes
Highest number of pods per plants (387.0 in 2016 and 441.2 in 2017) were observed in drip irrigation treatments with use of plastic mulch at 1-day intervals (DM1) (Table 4). Under mulched plots, the number of pods per plant recorded under DM1 and DM2 were statistically at par while for non-mulched plots the number of pods differed significantly for DNM1 (223.5) and DNM2 (197.3). Comparing the results for same irrigation interval the number of pods was consistently higher under mulched conditions. It deserves a mention that CB7 resulted in higher number of pods (112.5 and 101.5) than DNM7 (130.0 and 128.0), respectively in 2016 and 2017.

Table 2: Plant biometric parameters as affected by irrigation interval, mulching and irrigation methods.

Test weight was a trait which did not show significant difference under different irrigation methods or schedules in both the years. Irrigation methods as well as irrigation scheduling did not affect test weight significantly. For both the study seasons, the statistical analysis revealed higher P value (>0.05) for test weight implying no significant impact of these treatments (Table 4). Moisture availability or stress did not show any effect on seed test weight. It can be inferred that test weight is quite a resilient trait which remains unaffected by moisture regimes. It is apparent that once the grain filling sets in, all grains attain a weight close to a certain mean which remains constant for a season. These results finds support from Khodadadi (2013) who concluded that in chickpea 100 seed weight and number of days to pod filling were not affected by terminal drought stress. Purushottaman et al.. (2016) observed that 100-seed weight was not generally correlated with yield and this trait has had minimum contribution or role in grain yield determination in chickpea. Pasandi et al., (2014) observed that plant height, canopy spread, primary and secondary branches, chlorophyll content, days to maturity, grain yield and yield components of chickpea were significantly affected by irrigation regimes.
Harvest index, yield and water productivity
Harvest index was significantly affected by moisture regimes and treatments producing lower yield tended to exhibit higher harvest index and vice-versa. Treatments with 7 day irrigation interval resulted in higher harvest index of 57.4, 56.9 and 52.5 under DM7, DNM7 and CB7 treatments (Table 5). The highest value of harvest index (69.4) was observed under DM7 during the year 2017. These findings get support from Kashiwagi et al., (2013) and Purushottaman et al., (2016), who observed that treatments having moisture stress resulted in higher harvest index compared to treatments with optimum irrigation. Variation of harvest index is due to environmental factors which influence the partitioning of assimilates to harvestable product (Wnuk et al., 2013).

Table 5: Harvest index and yield of chickpea as affected by irrigation interval, mulching and irrigation methods.

Chickpea seed yield was significantly (P<0.01) influenced by irrigation methods as well as irrigation intervals. Highest yield of 19.38 and 17.2 q/ha was obtained from DM1during 2016 and 2017, respectively. However, the difference in yields obtained under DM1 and DM2 was statistically not different during 2016. In both the years of experimentation, DNM7 recorded the lowest chickpea yields. Under mulched conditions the chickpea seed yields in 1-day and 2-day irrigation intervals was 5.2 and 42.2% higher over 7 day interval, while for un-mulched conditions the yields increased by 2.5 and 17.2%, respectively. Compared to check basin method (CB7), the yields obtained under DM7 and DNM7 were 21.9 and 14.4% higher, respectively. Longer irrigation interval might have led to water stress in the crop root zone leading to reduced chickpea yields. Decrease in yield by water stress have been reported in lentil (Singh and Saxena, 1990; Lal et al.,1988), in chickpea (Singh et al., 2015; Fang et al., 2011). Inhibition of photosynthesis and less translocation of assimilates towards reproductive parts due to soil water stress leads to reduced crop yield (Razzak et al., 2017). Further, field observations revealed that the soil in the check basin plots was comparatively compact which may pose mechanical resistance and hinder exchange of air in the rhizosphere leading to reduced crop yields (Fernandez-Garcia et al., 2013).
Marked variation was observed in the water productivity of chickpea across the treatments (Table 5). Drip irrigation with mulch recorded the water productivity in the range of 0.35 to 0.54 kg/m3 (Fig 2). Compared to non-mulched drip, application of plastic mulch increased the water productivity by 32.9, 29.5 and 9.6% at 1-day, 2-day and 7-day irrigation intervals, respectively. It has been observed that the water productivity is genotype dependant and heritable (Kaloki et al., 2019, Ucak et al., 2018). The farmers practice (CB7) recorded the lowest WP of 0.30 kg/m3. Interestingly Jabow et al., (2015) observed that in desert conditions of Sudan, chickpea crop exhibited higher water productivity when the interval of irrigation was 15 days as compared to 10 days.

Fig 2: Water productivity of chickpea under different irrigation levels and mulching treatments.

Response of chickpea was evaluated under drip irrigation having three irrigation levels and plastic mulch. The results were compared with farmers’ practice of check basin. The study clearly demonstrated that under 1-day irrigation interval and application of plastic mulch, the plants’ biometric parameters viz. plant height, canopy spread, number of branches and dry matter production were significantly improved. This has manifested in improved chickpea seed yield and water productivity. The drip irrigation treatment with 2-day interval increased seed yield by 32.9% over drip irrigation without mulch at the same irrigation interval. The chickpea yield and water productivity decreased with increasing irrigation interval under both mulched and un-mulched conditions. Drip irrigation, with or without mulch, exhibited better plant growth, yield attributes, seed yield and water productivity in comparison to farmers practice check basin irrigation. Drip irrigation with plastic mulch and application of water at 1-day or 2-day interval is recommended for higher seed yield and water productivity of chickpea cultivated in Eastern Plateau and Hill region of India.

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