Chickpea – southern region

Insect pest risk

High risk

Moderate risk

Low risk

Native budworm
  • Wet winters in breeding areas of central Australia + suitable weather conditions that bring moths from west to east result in spring migrations.
  • Repeated influxes of moths over long periods, resulting in need for continuous monitoring and potentially repeat infestations.
  • Broadleaf weeds hosting cutworm and helicoverpa that move into the crop as large, damaging larvae
  • Hot weather in spring can cause small larvae to burrow into pods.
  • Wet harvest weather resulting in pods that are ‘softer’ for longer and susceptible to damage right up to harvest.
Dry winters in breeding areas (low source population and absence of frontal wind systems that provide opportunities for migration).
Infestation by virus-vectoring aphids in early seedling stages.Retained cereal stubble helps to restrict  aphid colonisation in wide rowed crops
Minor pests
If paddock comes out of pasture – higher risk of soil insects

Pest incidence

Chickpea has only one major pest, the native budworm caterpillar Helicoverpa punctigera.  Caterpillars do most damage at pod set through to maturity, and can reduce both grain yield and quality.

PestCrop stage






Lucerne fleaDamaging
Native budwormPresentPresentDamagingDamaging


PresentPresent in crop but gen­er­ally not dam­ag­ing
Dam­ag­ingCrop sus­cep­ti­ble to dam­age and loss

Insects other than native budworm are rarely a problem in chickpeas post establishment. Chickpeas secrete an organic acid (malic acid) from hairs on their leaves, stems and pods, making the crop unattractive to insects.

Seedlings are most vulnerable to damage:

  • before they develop three to four ‘true’ leaves
  • during periods of moisture stress
  • when other factors such as low soil temperature or soil compaction limit plant growth.

Key IPM strategies for chickpeas

  • Tolerate early damage. Chickpeas can compensate for early damage by setting new buds and pods to replace those damaged by pests. Excessive early damage can reduce yields and delay harvest.
  • Damage to pods is of more concern than damage to the plant. The grubs chew holes into the soft pod and feed on the developing and filling seed. Yield loss will occur at larval densities lower than those causing a reduction in grain quality (% defective seed). This is because helicoverpa consumes most of a chickpea seed, the remaining damaged seed is generally lost during harvest.
  • Monitor larval infestations as mortality of small larvae can be high. Refer to records from successive checks to help interpret check data and make decisions about the need for, and timing of, control.
  • Aim for one well-timed spray: Chickpea can tolerate moderate to high numbers of native budworm larvae (10-20 larvae/m2) through late vegetative and early flowering stages. Yield loss is sustained from damage at pod fill – the most critical stage for protecting the crop.
  • Post treatment checks are critical to determine efficacy and possible reinfestation prior to harvest.

Fur­ther information

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