Water deficit and phosphorus deficiency are important limiting factors in crop production in tropical Africa. The physiological, biomass production and yield responses of three chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) accessions namely; Yaya Gulele, Legambo and Moretina Jiru were evaluated at three water deficit and two phosphorus levels under glasshouse condition. The water deficit treatments were imposed at the vegetative (28 days after planting, DAP) and flowering (52 DAP) growth stages. The results revealed that plants grown under normal phosphorus treatments had higher midday leaf relative water content that in turn contributed to higher maximum and effective quantum yield of PS II and biomass production. The effect of water deficit on measured parameters was more severe when imposed at the flowering stage under low phosphorus conditions. Yield and its components were decreased at both water deficit treatment periods. The difference between water deficit treatments imposed at the vegetative growth stage was not significant. However, yield and yield component responses of chickpea accessions showed significant differences between water deficit treatments imposed at the flowering stage. Among the accessions, Legambo flowered earlier and produced the highest numbers of pods/plant. But, the highest seed weight/plant was produced by plants of accession Yaya Gulele. In general, the present study showed that application of phosphorus improves the performance of chickpea accessions under water deficit stress. However, further studies need to be conducted in the field to reproduce the result.
Keywords: Accession, chlorophyll a fluorescence, relative water content, water deficit stress, phosphorus deficiency