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Chickpea – Harvesting

Chickpea can be a very profitable crop to grow. Successfully obtaining human grade is dependent on good management throughout the season but particular attention at harvesting will maximize both quality and storability of the crop. Chickpeas are indeterminate so harvest management must consider fields with variability in maturity levels. To ensure high quality, farmers may need to manage areas within the fields separately. For example, low spots that have not reached physiological maturity should be desiccated when they have reached the appropriate stage and not with the rest of the field. By including them with the crop that is at the proper stage, the result will be harvested crop that is not uniform in quality with varying moisture levels that will impact storage and could contain chemical residues.

Pre-Harvest Considerations

Crop Maturity

  • Chickpeas are considered ready to harvest when the majority of the plants are yellow and most pods are mature. At this stage, the top of the plant may still be green.
  • Chickpeas are very sensitive to late season frosts, and seeds can be adversely affected by as little as 2 to 3 degrees of frost during the pod filling and ripening stage.
  • Time your chickpea harvest appropriately to ensure the highest possible yield.
  • A decision to begin harvest will hinge on a majority of the field meeting certain criteria. Do not sacrifice the quantity and quality of your crop waiting for smaller greener areas to reach the proper stage to start harvest.


  • Chickpea combining can start when seed reaches about 18% moisture content.
  • Chickpeas are considered dry and safe to store at <14%, chickpeas are considered to be tough at 14.1% - 16% seed moisture, and considered damp at >16.0%.
  • As moisture levels decline, especially in kabuli chickpea types, seed begins to shrink from the seed coat and becomes more susceptible to damage in handling at less than 13%.


  • Pre-harvest field monitoring will help determine which harvest system to consider, if more than one is available, and will greatly assist in determining when to begin harvest operations.
  • Monitoring fields means checking plants in numerous locations for uniformity of stages of maturity.
  • Most fields will not be 100% uniform in topography – there could be greener conditions in lower, wetter areas and further advanced plants on higher areas.
  • Harvesting too early will result in immature seeds – this is especially important as immature chickpea seeds will result in downgrading.
  • Harvesting too late when the pods are dry and brittle may result in shatter losses and will increase the risk of poorer quality seed due to adverse weather.
  • The decision to start the harvest process will depend on three factors: 
    • crop maturity (stage of uniformity – how variable is the crop’s maturity?)
    • seed moisture content
    • presence of weed growth.
  • Other considerations may include weather patterns, and marketing considerations (for human consumption, livestock feed or seed).


  • Waiting for green weed growth to drydown will jeopardize quality and yields.
  • Swathed green weeds are unlikely to dry sufficiently in a few days, so combining will be delayed.
  • Green weed material in a straight-cut operation will cause extra wetness in the threshing areas of the combine, resulting in moisture on the seed coat and dirt adhering to this moisture (earth tag). Grades will be lowered because of earth tag (see below).


  • Various chemical harvest management tools are available to aid in the preparation for combining. It’s important to select the right product for the right crop and the intended outcome.
  • Crop desiccation and dry down and pre-harvest perennial weed products are not the same. Make sure to select the right product, follow label directions, and timing of application. Harvest aid products vary in speed of activity, efficacy, and pre-harvest intervals.
  • Apply glyphosate, a systemic herbicide, for pre-harvest weed control but not for desiccation. See Desiccation information further below.
  • Pre-harvest glyphosate should be applied when the crop has 30% or less chickpea seed moisture. At this stage, chickpea stems are green to brown in colour, pods are mature (yellow to brown in colour) and 80% to 90% leaf drop (original leaves) has occurred. 
  • This treatment will provide perennial weed control, and can also be used to stop late season chickpea re-growth, and some drydown. However, drydown may be inconsistent and is unlikely to occur under cool, wet conditions.
  • Glyphosate, a systemic herbicide, will kill and drydown all green growth in approximately 14 to 21 days and will allow for a straight cut operation or swathing and combining immediately.
  • The crop and in-crop weeds must have enough green material remaining at application time for the herbicide to be effective.
  • Do not apply glyphosate products to any crops that will be harvested for seed as this causes irregular germination and seedling development can occur.
  • Applying glyphosate too early can reduce yield and seed size, and late-season applications may result in levels of glyphosate in the seed that exceed maximum allowable levels.
  • Growers must take appropriate risk mitigation steps to ensure product residues remain below maximum residue limits (MRLs) set by regulatory agencies. See Keep it Clean below.
  • Prior to applying glyphosate, check with potential buyers.  Some companies are NOT accepting peas where glyphosate was used pre-harvest as weed control.


  • Certain crop protection products can restrict the marketing options for your pulse crop. Before you make your crop management plans, talk to your grain buyer and read the Keep it Clean Pulse Maximum Residue Limits Advisory for a list of products of concern this year, and the steps you can take to mitigate risk.
  • More than 85% of Canada’s pulse production is exported to feed the world. Market access is important to the Canadian pulse industry, and growers play a key role in keeping the doors open.
  • Source: For the latest Keep it Clean updates, visit Keep it Clean


  • Chickpea size and colour is very important for quality.
  • The stage of the crop should be closely monitored, as harvesting too early increases the chance of green seed in the crop, which lowers the grade and value of the grain.
  • Deductions are implemented if immature green seeds comprise more than 0.5% in kabuli, and 1% in desi chickpeas.
  • Early frost, as little as 2°C or 3°C, during pod filling and ripening can result in immature green seed in the harvested crop, significantly reducing the grade and value.
  • Other factors that negatively affect seed quality are Botrytis or Sclerotinia in the seed, admixtures, small seed size, and a lack of seed uniformity.


Chickpea at Physiological maturity – Soon Ready for Desiccation and Harvest


  • For crop rapid dry down of green material to coordinate harvest timing, desiccant or herbicide with ‘harvest aid’ uses is the correct product to choose.
  • The whole goal of desiccants or harvest aids is to make
  • sure the crop is dry and goes through the combine efficiently.
  • Desiccation is a better alternative to swathing for reducing the amount of residual green material in the field prior to harvest. However, you have to wait until stems are green to brown in colour, pods are mature (yellow to brown in colour), and 80% to 90% of the original leaves have dropped.
  • The more the crop has a chance to mature naturally, the better the yield and quality. Depending on the year, frost may act as a natural desiccant depending on the stage of the crop.
  • Consult the Alberta Blue Book for desiccation options. 
  • With the later maturity of chickpeas, cooler conditions and shorter days later in the growing season will reduce the speed of drydown, compared to applications made earlier in the growing season.
  • If some areas of the field are immature, it is better to go around those areas when desiccating if the goal is the highest quality seed production.


  • Spray only as many acres at one time as can be combined in two or three days after drydown.
  • If the entire crop will take more than two or three days to combine, stagger the desiccant application so that not all the crop is ready at the same time.
  • Use proper rates, high water volume and spray at the correct crop stage.


  • Powdery mildew and heavy weed infestations can reduce the effectiveness of the chemicals due to coverage reductions.

Harvest Systems

Chickpea at Various Stages of Maturity


  • Chickpeas can be harvested when the majority of the plants are yellow and most pods are mature (yellow to brown in colour). At this stage, the top of the plant may still be green.
  • However, if the plants are left standing too long following maturity there is a risk of pod drop. This can occur if the small stem attaching the pod to the plant breaks.
  • If left in the field too long following maturity, seed weathering can reduce quality.
  • Avoid combining chickpeas that are wet or immature.
  • Earth tagging may also occur when combining starts too early in the morning or continues too late in the evening and when dew is present; earth tagging is also common when weeds like thistle or quack grass are present.


  • Swathing is not a recommended practice for chickpea harvest management. However, there are circumstances where it may be necessary. Swathing is an option to put an end to late season growth if moisture is still readily available to the plant.
  • Swathing should be done during periods of higher humidity to prevent shatter losses.
  • Swathing too early, while the pods are still green, can lead to an increase in green seed and loss of grade.
  • Chickpeas may be swathed immediately ahead of the combine if straight cutting equipment is not available.
  • Chickpeas do not cure well in the swath, resulting in high green seed if swathed or desiccated too early. Swathing may result in lower yield, higher green seed, and seed infection from both fungal and bacterial diseases, resulting in reduced quality and yield.


  • The best time to combine chickpeas is around 18% moisture content.
  • The stage of the crop should be closely monitored, as harvesting too early increases the chance of green seed in the crop, which lowers the grade and value of the grain.
  • Currently over 90% of chickpeas are straight cut.
  • The best yields for chickpeas are obtained when the crop is left standing and then straight combined.
  • Chickpeas have stiff stems and a relatively upright growth habit, with pods developing several inches above the ground. Pods are quite shatter resistant, although shattering of maturing pods may occur under drought conditions. Pods and seeds often mature before the stems and leaves.
  • These characteristics result in chickpea plants being well-suited to straight cutting. However, if the plants are left standing too long following maturity there is a risk of pod drop and reduced quality with adverse weather.
  • Avoid combining chickpeas that are wet or immature. When straight cutting, air or pick-up reels may reduce harvest loss compared to bat reels. Make sure when transferring grain through augers and into bins that it is not subjected to high speeds or lengthy falls.
  • Combines may either be specialized units designed specifically for harvesting chickpeas or conventional units with either a cylinder or rotor threshing system.


  • Chickpeas must be handled carefully to prevent seed chipping and cracking and maintain quality, especially the larger seeded kabuli types, so reducing combine speed is recommended.
  • The RPM of the cylinder and the clean grain elevators should be reduced as much as possible. Cylinder speeds between 170 and 350 rpm are satisfactory for most threshing conditions.
  • Initial combine settings should be similar to those used for peas, however, a wider concave setting for larger seeds and an increased cylinder or rotor speed may be required to remove the seed from the pod.
  • Clearances between the cylinder and concave, and between the wires in the concave, must allow the seed to pass through freely.
  • The use of perforated sheet metal (3/16 round) and slotted screens in the feeder housing or screening on the combine table will help eliminate dirt from the grain — and save wear and tear on the equipment.
  • The unloading auger should run at an idle speed to prevent damage to the seed. If you see evidence of seed damage or splitting, make immediate adjustment.


  • This is the newest header type for straight combining chickpea crops.
  • The use of stripper headers was found to reduce weed seed dockage and shriveled chickpea seeds as opposed to samples from straight cut or pick up headers.
  • Stripper headers in chickpeas are able to strip off ripened pods and leave green leaves on the plants. Very little green material goes into the combine.
  • It incorporates a flail type cylinder enclosed in a shroud and is operated at 1 in. to 2 in. above the soil surface. One advantage to the stripper header is its ability to harvest badly lodged crops.
  • Careful adjustment and maintenance of the stripper header is needed to offer a clean undercarriage to eliminate hang-ups of chickpea vine and dirt entering the combine.

Chickpea Straw Management

Western Canadian research into the nutritive levels and value of chickpea straw is limited, but it is believed that chickpea straw has considerable nutrient value when used as an alternative feed source and as a nutrient when returned to the soil.


  • One of the benefits from growing a chickpea crop is the positive effect of chickpea residue in the soil. Chickpea straw contains nutrients, which once broken down by the soil micro-flora, can be made available to the following year’s crops.
  • Improved soil structure, tilth and recycled nitrogen for succeeding crops are all benefits of chickpea straw incorporation. In fact, most of the nitrogen returned to the soil after growing a chickpea crop comes from the straw.
  • Because of these benefits, it is recommended that chickpea straw remain on the field and not be baled off for feed purposes. Consider the following:
    • Dry chickpea straw breaks up and pulverizes quite readily when combined.
    • Straw that is slightly green or tough will remain almost whole going through the combine.
    • A good straw chopper and chaff spreader will cut and spread the straw and chaff sufficiently so that tillage or direct seeding is not a problem.
    • Tough straw will wrap around the chopper drum if the straw chopper knives are dull and worn.
  • The decision to work straw back into the soil or bale and feed it is entirely up to each individual operation. It’s important to recognize chickpea straw’s worth and not under-value it.


  • When assessing the benefits of baling versus incorporating these nutrients into the soil, the cost of baling straw and hauling it must be taken into consideration.
  • There may be some variability in nutritive value between years and sites. This variability may be a reflection of soil fertility, moisture and environmental (growing) conditions.
  • Overall quality is usually better than cereal straw. Chickpea straw can be significantly higher in protein, but high fibre levels limit digestibility and expected feed intake.
  • Chickpea straw is primarily useful for beef cattle rations where high quality roughage is not as important as for other classes of livestock – when chickpea straw is fed with higher quality roughage and/or grain, it can produce a very cost-effective ration (the higher protein levels generally make chickpea straw a better match with grain than cereal straw).
  • Palatability studies (how well an animal will consume the feed) with chickpea straw have not been conducted – anecdotal evidence with beef cattle suggest a wide range in chickpea straw palatability (cattle devouring the feedstuff versus complete rejection).
  • Processing the straw (such as grinding or chopping it with machines like mix mills or hay busters) and mixing the straw with other feeds may help with palatability.
  • Farmers thinking of removing chickpea straw should test it for protein, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur to determine the nutrient content. A feed analysis of a representative sample of chickpea straw for protein, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur is needed to do the calculations on value of selling as feed versus improving your soil.