Chickpea (Cicer arietinum) is one of the most important food legume in terms of production and harvested area. India is the global leader in both production and consumption of chickpea. Almost 90% of global production comes from six countries: India, Australia, Myanmar, Turkey, Pakistan and Ethiopia. Chickpea is a cool-season legume, grown in either winter or spring.
Chickpea was domesticated in the Fertile Crescent, together with a number of other crops: einkorn (Triticum monococcum), emmer (T. turgidum ssp. dicoccum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), lentil (Lens culinaris), pea (Pisum sativum), flax (Linum usitatissimum), bitter vetch (V. ervilia) and probably faba beans (V. faba). The earliest archeological evidence of chickpea use dates back to 10000 BP, and was found in northwest Syria. The crop spread from the Near East to Europe and west-central Asia around 5500 BC onwards.
There are two major types of chickpeas: kabuli (also known as Bengal gram, chana or garbanzo) and desi (also known as Kala chana). Kabuli derived from desi types around 8000 BP. Kabuli chickpeas are large, beige colored and are largely grown in South Asia, whereas desi types are smaller, green colored and mostly grown in the Mediterranean basin.
There are about 55,000 chickpea accessions listed in Genesys. The two largest collections are at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India, and the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICARDA) in Lebanon, with additional important collections in the USA, Turkey and Russia. ICARDA’s collection include kabuli-type chickpeas, whereas ICRISAT’s specializes in desi types. More than half (58%) of the listed accessions are traditional cultivars and landraces, with just over 30% breeding material and improved varieties. Wild relatives currently make up 1.5% of the accessions.
The global strategy for the ex situ conservation of chickpea genetic resources identifies unique and highly diverse collections that are key for chickpea breeding. It prioritizes actions to achieve a rational conservation of chickpea diversity, including the need to further develop accession level data, and establish regeneration and conservation protocols for wild relatives.