Chickpeas like to grow in hot dry climates. Or more aptly expressed, chickpeas like to grow in hot DRY climates. The humidity and muggy growing season for Virginia crops … leaves chickpeas vulnerable to a humidity-caused fungus called ascochyta blight, that can ruin the infected plants.
But chickpeas and their various end-products like hummus, are in demand. And just like there’s a certain additional cost to farmers for using the necessary fungicides to control the blight, there’s also an additional transportation cost to process chickpeas from other drier climates.
So researchers have been working to find strains of chickpeas that can thrive in Virginia’s climate. Agronomists at Virginia State University’s experimental Randolph Farm tested 1252 varieties of chickpeas since their tests began in 1995, and so far they’ve found 6 of those varieties that are thriving in Virginia.
Their efforts are the result of research in conjunction with the Sabra Dipping Company which moved to VA in 2010. They are due to open an $86M expansion of their research facility near South Chesterfield next year. Research continues but the rewards would be enormous if another major cash crop could be found for Virginia’s farmers.