Neelam - a desi chickpea for southern Australia

Page last updated: Friday, 5 April 2019 - 11:03am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Neelam is well adapted to most areas of southern Australia and offers ascochyta blight resistance in a mid flowering, mid maturing variety.

Key features

  • Ascochyta blight resistance rating of resistant (R).
  • Mid flowering and mid maturity, adapted to most growing regions of southern Australia.
  • Medium/tall plant height, taller than PBA Slasher.
  • Seed size is 17 grams per 100 seeds, marginally larger than Genesis 836.


Neelam is a Hindu/urdu word (the most widely spoken languages in the Indian subcontinent) meaning the gem blue sapphire. This follows the Western Australian convention of naming chickpea varieties in the language of the target market and referring to gems or precious metals found in Australia.

Neelam was tested as WACPE2155, 99-451A-WAD7 and 99-451A-WAD007.


This variety was developed by Dr Tanveer Khan (former Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) plant breeder), Winthrop Professor Kadambot Siddique (University of Western Australia) and the DPIRD pulse breeding team. The cross (8511-19/ICC 13729) was made in 1999 at Tamworth and then transferred as F4 generation to WA. The segregating populations were grown at Merredin in 2003 and subjected to ascochyta blight epidemic. A single plant showing ascochyta blight resistance and desirable agronomic traits was harvested individually and progeny grown in 2004, again at Merredin along with other single plant selections. This line was then observed as genetically fixed and tested at multi-location breeding trials until 2011.

Agronomic characteristics

The agronomy of growing Neelam is similar to all current Australian chickpea varieties. Neelam has the following agronomic characteristics:

  • Plant height is higher than most Australian varieties but slightly lower than Genesis 836.
  • Mid flowering similar to Genesis 836.
  • Lodging has not been seen in any trials in WA, including trials where Neelam has yielded more than four tonnes per hectare (t/ha).
  • Neelam is a mid maturity variety similar to PBA Slasher and Genesis 836.
  • Neelam is resistant to ascochyta blight, as found over several years of testing in WA and in variable environments in India and New South Wales.
Table 1 Agronomic features of desi chickpea varieties
Variety Seed weight (g/100) Seed colour Flowering time Maturity time Plant height Lodging
Neelam 17 brown mid mid med-tall MR
Ambar 16 light brown early early short-med MR
PBA Slasher 21 brown mid mid medium MS
Genesis 836 17 light brown mid mid-late tall MR
Table 2 Disease resistance of desi chickpea varieties
Variety Ascochyta blight Ascochyta rating Botrytis grey mould
Neelam R 3.9 S
Ambar R 3.8 S
PBA Slasher R 4.1 S
Genesis 836 MS 4.8 S

Area of adaptation

Neelam is well adapted to most areas of southern Australia consistently ranking in the top yielding varieties, ranking higher than PBA Slasher and Genesis 836. Limited trials in NSW and Queensland show Neelam yield competitively.


Neelam yields are generally better than PBA Slasher and Genesis 836. In a significant number of National Variety Trials (NVT) it is the top yielding or amongst the top yielding named varieties. It also yields well under low yielding, shorter growing season (low rainfall) environments making it particularly suited to WA. Limited trials in NSW and QLD show that it provides competitive yields.

For latest trial results see the National Variety Trials website.

Table 3 National Variety Trials predicted average yields for desi chickpea varieties (2005-2012)
Variety South-east South Australia Mid-north South Australia Upper Eyre Peninsula Yorke Peninsula Victoria Mallee Victoria Wimmera WA AgZone 1 WA AgZone 2 WA AgZone 4
Neelam 2.04 2.11 0.94 2.07 1.44 1.41 1.45 1.24 1.11
Ambar 2.01 2.07 0.91 2.07 1.36 1.33 1.40 1.16 1.06
Genesis 836 - 1.92 - 1.88 1.30 1.27 1.36 1.14 1.05
PBA Slasher 2.03 2.13 0.93 2.08 1.43 1.40 1.41 1.19 1.08

Management package

Paddock selection

Select paddocks which have:

  • Well drained soils with a pH above 5.5 (calcium chloride, CaCl2), heavy deep clays, heavy loam, sandy loam and loamy sands. Avoid soils with a pH below 5.5 (CaCl2), saline soils, high boron soils and acid (Wodjil) soils. Chickpeas have poor tolerance of low pH, particularly where aluminium toxicity can be a problem.
  • A soil structure and slope which allows good drainage - avoid shallow soils.
  • Little or no risk of sulfonylurea carryover.
  • A low broad-leaf weed burden.
  • Few rocks and roots and can be left relatively flat and even after sowing for harvest. To minimise the risk of diseases, do not grow chickpeas more often than one year in four in the same paddock and at least 500 metres from the previous seasons chickpea stubble.


  • Target the sowing date used for desi chickpeas in your region. Gains in yield and grain quality can be made from timely sowing.
  • Sowing depth: aim for a sowing depth of 5cm. Chickpea will tolerate sowing to 8cm with moist soil conditions.
  • Sowing rage: 40-45 plants per square metre (plants/m2) is the optimum plant density which corresponds to a sowing rate of between 90-100 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha) subject to seed size and germination test.
  • Row spacing: Trials and commercial experience indicate that there is little or no yield penalty with wide row spacing up to 60cm.


Chickpea is effective at extracting phosphorus (P) and shows no yield response to additional P at soil levels above 20 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) (Colwell test). If levels in the soil are between 10-20mg/kg, add at least 8kg P/ha. As a guide, approximately 3.2kg of P is exported in one tonne of chickpea grain.


Inoculate with Group N chickpea rhizobia inoculum at sowing. This should be applied regardless of the cropping history of the paddock, and recommended in all circumstances.

All chickpea seed should receive a fungicide seed dressing (P-Pickle-T) to reduce ascochyta blight, however fungicide seed dressings are toxic to rhizobia. The pickle must be applied first (up to months in advance) and allowed to dry before inoculum is applied. Alternatively, use a granular Group N product.

Herbicide sensitivity

Herbicide tolerance trials in Victoria and South Australia (Wimmera clay and alkaline sandy loam soils) show that herbicides commonly used in chickpea production can be used on Neelam with the same degree of safety. Severe seasonal effects on herbicide activity can occur and work is ongoing to validate findings under differing seasonal conditions.

Refer to the National Variety Trials website for current trial results.

Disease management

To minimise yield losses to ascochyta blight, botrytis grey mould and phytophthora, follow local best management guidelines for you region. Use a seed dressing (containing thiram or thiabendazole plus thiram) for the control of ascochyta blight, botrytis grey mould and common root rots.

See disease management guides on the Pulse Australia website.

Ascochyta blight disease management with Neelam is the same as with the other ascochyta resistant (R) varieties PBA Slasher or Genesis 090.

  • Fungicide sprays (a.i.chlorothalonil) are unlikely to be required before podding, but monitor crops for signs of disease.
  • In WA, an early fungicide application is recommended 6-8 weeks after sowing to delay the development of ascochyta blight.
  • In all regions, monitor crops and use a foliar fungicide at early podding prior to rain to ensure pods are protected, and high quality, disease free grain is produced.
  • Pods of Neelam can be affected by ascochyta blight, and this can result in poor quality, discoloured grain or seed abortion and yield loss in severe disease situations.

All current varieties are susceptible to Botrytis grey mould. There is a risk of this disease in Neelam if a dense, bulky canopy develops during a favourable growing season.

  • Apply a fungicide prior to canopy closure in botrytis grey mould prone areas and continue monitoring. Apply further fungicide applications if it is present.

Insect control

Chickpea is highly susceptible to native budworm. Crops need to be monitored from flowering through to pod fill. Small grubs less than 1cm are damaging. Economic threshold for control can be as low as one grub in 20 sweeps.


The crop is ready to harvest when the stems and the majority of pods are light brown and the seed is hard and rattles within the pod. Seed moisture needs to be less than 14%. Pods will be shed if harvest is delayed.

Suggested harvester settings are:

  • Reel speed 1.0 x ground speed.
  • Table auger 10-20mm.
  • Drum or rotor speed 300-600 rpm.
  • Concave clearance 10-25mm (start at 10mm)
  • Fan speed 75-100%.
  • Top sieve: 16-25mm (start at 25mm).
  • Bottom sieve: 8-16mm (start at 16mm).


Neelam grain is a desi type chickpea suitable for the whole and splitting human food markets. Seed size is similar to that of PBA Slasher. However, its seed coat colour is lighter than PBA Slasher. The seed size is very uniform and this coupled with seed colour make it attractive marketing. Other quality attributes also compare well with current varieties.

Seed availability

Neelam is currently available and is being commercialised through Heritage Seeds.

Seed supply enquiries