Last year (year 2 of field scale chickpea production) was a real struggle: drought through much of the season, intense heat in late May, then extraordinary rainfall in August (⅛ of the annual average fell on the crop in 4 hours!) presented the chickpeas with successive challenges.
This year (chickpea year 3) hasn’t started much better to be honest: a cold start and prolonged wet conditions are not what chickpeas like.
It’s a funny old thing. This is a crop that we and Henry the farmer (he’s in the orange in the photo) are interested in as part of diverse cropping strategies that just might help adapt to a changing climate. They can fix their own nitrogen and cope with more water and heat stress.
But the fact is climate change - or perhaps more accurately climate chaos - brings greater uncertainty and more frequent extremes, not a gentle slide to a new steady state. What works in Norfolk now will almost certainly be a heck of a lot more difficult in a decade or so, and there are unlikely to be straightforward crop substitutions - system changes rather than just dropping lentils or chickpeas into existing rotations.
So it’s critical that we find crops that as well as being part of an adaptive process can also contribute to lower input and lower impact food and farming systems.
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