Drought after podding is a common feature of chickpea production in south-western Australia. We studied the effect of water stress, imposed after podding, on yield and on the accumulation of amino acids and soluble sugars in seeds. Although terminal water stress decreased the total plant dry mass and seed yield by 23% and 30% respectively, it had no effect on the mass of individual pods and seeds which remained on the plant after the imposition of stress treatment. The deleterious effect of water stress on yield was due to increased pod abortion and a decrease in pod formation. Water stress improved the seed's nutritive value in terms of higher accumulation of soluble sugars, amino acids and proteins. (C) 2001 Society of Chemical Industry.