Ascochyta Blight of Chickpea
Note Number: AG1186
Published: August 2008
Updated: August 2012
Ascochyta blight of chickpea is caused by the fungal pathogen Ascochyta rabiei. In 1998 there was a serious outbreak of the disease in Victoria, South Australia and NSW, which destroyed many crops. A number of varieties with improved resistance to ascochyta blight are now available. Variety selection and understanding the associated disease management package is critical for success.
What to look for
This disease is usually first noticed in late winter when small patches of blighted plants appear throughout the paddock. The disease spreads during cool, wet weather from infected plants to surrounding plants by rain splash of spores. This creates large blighted patches within crops (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Blighted patches occur within a crop as the disease spreads from infected plants to surrounding healthy plants.
Figure 2. Typical symptoms of leaf and stem infection.
Figure 3. Symptoms of pod infection.
Figure 4. Typical stem lesions caused by ascochyta.
Figure 5. Damping-off of seedling
Initially ascochyta blight appears on the younger leaves as small water-soaked pale spots. These spots rapidly enlarge under cool and wet conditions, joining with other spots on the leaves and blighting the leaves and buds (Figure 2). Small black spots (pycnidia), less than 1 mm in diameter, can be seen in the affected areas. In severe cases of infection the entire plant dries up suddenly.
Elongated lesions can often form and girdle the stem. The stem may die and break off. Regrowth may occur from the broken stem. Affected areas on the pods tend to be round, sunken, with pale centres and dark margins (Figures 3 & 4).
The fungus can penetrate the pod and infect the seed. Severe pod infection usually results in reduced seed set and infected seed. When infected seeds are sown, the emerging seedlings will develop dark brown lesions at the base of the stem. Affected seedlings may collapse and die (Figure 5.)
This fungal disease has an asexual (non-sexual) and sexual stage; the asexual stage is most common in Australia. In this stage the fungus survives mainly on infected seed and on crop residues. Spores of the fungus produced on crop residues are carried into new crops by wind. Infection can occur at any stage of plant growth, provided conditions are favourable. Moisture is essential for infection to occur. During wet weather, the disease can spread further than in dry conditions because spores of the fungus are carried onto neighbouring plants by wind and rain splash.
The widespread occurrence of this disease in 1998 had a negative impact on the chickpea growing industry. To successfully grow varieties with an ascochyta disease rating less than moderately resistant, foliar fungicides need to be applied throughout the growing season to avoid serious yield losses. Varieties rated as moderately resistant (such as PBA Slasher and Genesis™509) still require at least one fungicide at early pod set, but the risk of yield loss is minimal. When selecting varieties the added cost of fungicide applications needs to be considered before selecting and growing susceptible to moderately resistant varieties.
Management requires a combination of farm hygiene, resistant varieties, crop monitoring and the use of fungicides. When growing a new variety, obtain a copy of the variety management package for information on specific disease management.
A key strategy is to consider growing a resistant variety such as PBA Slasher or Genesis™090. Note - a fungicide application is still required at early podding to protect seed quality.
For chickpea varieties (rated susceptible to moderately resistant) the following management strategies should be applied:
- Use seed from a paddock where ascochyta was not detected or was well managed.
- Treat all seed with a seed dressing registered for ascochyta blight control.
- Choose a paddock at least 500 metres from last years chickpea crop.
- Generally the first fungicide spray will need to be applied 4-6 weeks after sowing. Moderately resistant varieties will require 2 – 4 strategic sprays throughout the growing season. The moderately susceptible varieties will require spraying every 2-3 weeks. Susceptible varieties will require spraying at least fortnightly throughout the growing season.
- Note, sprays only protect the plant parts contacted by the spray; subsequent plant growth will not be protected.
- A fungicide spray at pod set is essential to ensure production of premium quality seed.
- Always disinfect machinery, vehicles and boots once they have been in an infected crop.
Breeding programs in Australia are developing improved ascochyta blight resistant lines of chickpea. All current resistant varieties and future releases will still require spraying at podding time, as their pods are susceptible to infection. However, the greatly reduced number of spray applications required for resistant varieties make chickpea a valid crop option and profitable to grow.
As resistant varieties become grown over larger areas there is likely to be a reduction in the amount of ascochyta blight inoculum present. This should reduce the risk of further serious disease outbreaks.
Contact/Services available from DPI
DPI Field Crops Pathology, Grains Innovation Park, 110 Natimuk Rd, Horsham 3400. Tel (03) 5362 2111, or the DPI Customer Service Centre 136 186
This Information Note (AG 1186) was originally written by Helen Richardson and Kristy Hobson. It was reviewed by Frank Henry and Helen Richardson, Farm Services Victoria - BioSciences Research, June 2010 and August 2012. Financial support by the GRDC is gratefully acknowledged.
Published and Authorised by:
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
1 Spring Street
This publication is copyright. No part may be reproduced by any process except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968.
The advice provided in this publication is intended as a source of information only. Always read the label before using any of the products mentioned. The State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication