This field study was conducted to evaluate the interactive effect of zinc (Zn) application by various methods and Zn solubilizing endophyte bacteria Enterobacter sp. MN17 on productivity, profitability and grain quality of kabuli chickpea for two consecutive years. Zinc was delivered through pre-optimized osmopriming (0.001 M Zn solution), seed coating (5 mg Zn kg−1 seed), foliar spray (0.025 M Zn solution), and soil application (10 kg Zn ha−1) with or without Zn solubilizing endophyte Enterobacter sp. MN17, while hydroprimed seeds were taken as control. Zinc application through either method improved nodulation, leg-haemoglobin, grain yield, profitability, bioavailable Zn and grain quality of chickpea. The maximum improvement in grain yield (44%), grain protein and grain bioavailable Zn contents (14%) and reduction in phytate contents (21%) were recorded with Zn seed coating compared with control. Co-application of Zn and endophyte Enterobacter sp. MN17 was more effective than the sole Zn application. Highest benefit cost ratio (4.35) and economic return ($ 1604.9 ha−1) was recorded with Zn seed coating + Enterobacter sp. MN17. In conclusion, Zn application through seed coating in combination with Zn solubilizing endophyte Enterobacter sp. MN17 improved the productivity, profitability, bioavailable Zn and grain quality of kabuli chickpea.
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