Cultivated chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) is a diploid, self-pollinated, leguminous crop that ranks second in area and third in production among the pulses. It is cultivated primarily for its protein-rich seed, and the plant is an efficient symbiotic nitrogen-fixer, playing an important role in farming systems. Two types of chickpea are grown: desi, with angular and coloured seeds, primarily grown in South Asia; and kabuli, with large, owl-head shape and beige-coloured seeds, grown in the Mediterranean region. Germplasm is maintained at ICRISAT (Patancheru: 18°N, 78°E) and ICARDA (Tel Hadya: 35°5′N, 36°55′E). Before 1970, wild Cicer species were scarce, but a number of annual species accessions are now available.
BOTANY AND DISTRIBUTION
The name Cicer is of Latin origin and probably derives from the pre-Indo German kichere in the Pelagian language of the tribes populating north Greece before Greek-speaking tribes took over. Chickpea belongs to subfamily Papilionoideae, tribe Viceae Alef, but its position is sufficiently distinct to consider the Cicer genus a tribe of its own, the Cicereae Alef. (Kupicha 1977). Van der Maesen (1987) dealt with this genus in detail and listed 43 species, including 34 wild perennial species, 8 wild annual and the cultivated annual, C. arietinum. The study on chromosome count in Cicer species has been limited because of rare availability of living materials.