Either imbibition at low temperatures or fast water uptake reduced germination of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) by 15%. The combination of imbibition at low temperatures and fast water uptake reduced germination by 65%. The most chilling-sensitive period for chickpea germination is the first 30 minutes of imbibition. Slow imbibition at 20°C for 24 hours prior to seeding of mechanically damaged chickpea seeds significantly improved percentage of germination, and uniform, vigorous seedlings resulted. Such prehydrated seeds also showed better emergence under field conditions, especially in early spring when the soil was still cold. The results suggest that mechanically damaged seeds sown in cold, wet soil undergo imbibitional chilling injury and fast water uptake, leading to poor field emergence. Prehydration of seeds by slow imbibition at warm temperature and/or fungicide application increased the germination and emergence of chickpeas sown into cold, wet soils.