Episode 8

Published on:

21st May 2024

A Mystery Disease in Chickpea with Dr. Michelle Hubbard

Dr. Michelle Hubbard leads a field, greenhouse, growth chamber and lab based research program at Agriculture and AgriFood Canada, a part of the Canadian federal government. Based in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, her work focuses on pulse pathology, including important diseases like ascochyta blight of chickpea, root rot of pea and lentil and anthracnose of lentil. Hubbard discusses a mystery illness that has been popping up in parts of Saskatchewan and other areas in recent years. She shares the symptoms of this disease and the extensive research that has been done to try to understand what exactly is going on so that we can start to manage for it in the future. 

She provides insights not only into pulse pathology, but also into the approach scientists like herself take to try to find answers for farmers.

“It is frustrating, but it's also interesting and I keep going by thinking we're learning other things. Even if we're not finding an answer to this problem, we're learning other useful things like about drought and Verticillium and nematodes.”  - Dr. Michelle Hubbard

The exact pathogenesis of the mystery illness in chickpeas continues to elude researchers despite major efforts. The disease first emerged in 2019 and made its mark by creating severe crop loss similar to ascochyta blight. However, these chickpeas did not demonstrate obvious girdling and patterns of being transmitted airborne like typical ascochyta blight. Drought stress followed by rainfall was another factor explored for explaining the unique symptoms observed in the field but this too was disproved in trials. Herbicide application without moisture was another factor explored and it too could not be replicated successfully. The investigation continues with Dr. Hubbard offering this advice to producers. 

“Keep an eye out for it, but (don't) panic about it. If they want to find out more information or pictures, there's a lot of pictures on the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers website, as well as some old reports dating back to the beginning of the issue that explains it really well and shows pictures and examples. Or if somebody wants to contact me, I'm happy to send pictures or to help you find a link where you can find more pictures.” - Dr. Michelle Hubbard

This Week on Growing Pulse Crops:

  • Meet Dr. Michelle Hubbard a plant pathologist who leads a field, greenhouse, growth chamber and lab based research program at Agriculture and AgriFood Canada
  • Understand the emergence and research related to identifying this mystery chickpea illness
  • Learn more about Dr. Hubbard’s work at AgriFood Canada by visiting her webpage 
  • Check out the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers webpage as well to learn more about this emerging concern

Growing Pulse Crops is produced by Dr. Audrey Kalil and hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast

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About the Podcast

Growing Pulse Crops
The science and business of farming field peas, chickpeas, and lentils
This show features the latest in research, agronomy, and economics of pulse crops (peas, chickpeas, lentils, etc.).

Demand for these nutrient-dense, high-protein foods continues to grow. There is also interest from farmers to include more pulses into diverse rotations for benefits like nitrogen fixation and soil health.

But the industry continues to face challenges, and we are eager to address these head on. So if you’re a pulse grower or in any way interested in these important crops, hit subscribe and stay tuned for future episodes. We’ll be back with plenty of information about challenges pulse farmers are facing throughout the U.S. and what solutions are working.

Brought to you by the Pulse Crops Working Group with support from the North Central IPM Center and USDA NIFA.

About your host

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Tim Hammerich

I share stories about agriculture, agtech, and agribusiness on podcasts and radio.