Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) is an important food and rotation crop in many parts of the world. Cold (freezing and chilling temperatures) and Ascochyta blight (Didymella rabiei) are the major constraints in chickpea production. The effects of temperature stresses on chickpea susceptibility and pathogen aggressiveness are not well documented in the Cicer-Didymella pathosystem. Two experiments were conducted under controlled conditions using chickpea genotypes and pathogen isolates in 2011 and 2012. In Experiment 1, four isolates of D. rabiei (AR-01, AR-02, AR-03 and AR-04), six chickpea genotypes (Ghab-1, Ghab-2, Ghab-3, Ghab-4, Ghab-5 and ICC-12004) and four temperature regimes (10, 15, 20, and 25°C) were studied using 10 day-old seedlings. In Experiment 2, three chickpea genotypes (Ghab-1, Ghab-2, and ICC-12004) were exposed to 5 and 10 days of chilling temperature exposure at 5°C and non-exposed seedlings were used as controls. Seedlings of the three chickpea genotypes were inoculated with the four pathogen isolates used in Experiment 1. Three disease parameters (incubation period, latent period and disease severity) were measured to evaluate treatment effects. In Experiment 1, highly significant interactions between genotypes and isolates; genotypes and temperature; and isolate and temperature were observed for incubation and latent periods. Genotype x isolate and temperature x isolate interactions also significantly affected disease severity. The resistant genotype ICC-12004 showed long incubation and latent periods and low disease severity at all temperatures. The highly aggressive isolate AR-04 caused symptoms, produced pycnidia in short duration as well as high disease severity across temperature regimes, which indicated it is adapted to a wide range of temperatures. Short incubation and latent periods and high disease severity were observed on genotypes exposed to chilling temperature. Our findings showed that the significant interactions of genotypes and isolates with temperature did not cause changes in the rank orders of the resistance of chickpea genotypes and aggressiveness of pathogen isolates. Moreover, chilling temperature predisposed chickpea genotypes to D. rabiei infection; developing multiple stress resistance is thus a pre-requisite for the expansion of winter-sown chickpea in West Asia and North Africa
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