Growing Cowpeas – A Beginners Guide

Growing Cowpeas.
Growing Cowpeas.

Growing Cowpeas For Beginners:

The below content is all about Growing Cowpeas.

Introduction to Growing Cowpeas

Cowpea is an annual herb and is commonly cultivated mainly for its protein-rich seeds. It is a valuable crop as it is a highly palatable food source and the whole plant can be used as forage for animals.  The crop is one of the early cultivated crops and it is believed to be native from West and South Africa. The seeds are a rich source of food content having 25% protein, 55% carbohydrates, and 2% fat. It is a quick growing crop with several varieties grown together for both food and feed. When using as forage, it should be grazed after flowering, when using as silage, it can be mixed with maize, sorghum, or molasses.

Cowpea is a warm-season legume crop, mostly grown in humid tropical regions. Depending on varieties, they can be bushy, trailing, or vines. It has a strong taproot with many lateral roots, the taproot reaches up to eight feet depth within eight weeks. The plant leaves are trifoliate and are arranged in an alternate pattern with dark green in color. Cowpea varieties have different leaf sizes and shapes. The upright stems are hairless and hollow with some purple shades. The plant produces flowers which are white or purple within 40 to 50 days after sowing and they are borne in alternate pairs. The seeds are 8 cm to 15 cm long, round, and two-valved pods having six to 13 seeds per pod growing within the spongy tissue. Seeds are kidney-shaped with a black scar at the point of attachment to the pod.

Scientific / Botanical name of Cowpeas

Vignaunguiculata (L.)Walp.

Family Name of Cowpeas


Other names of Cowpeas

Crowder pea, blackeyed pea, southern pea

Cowpea in Indian Languages

Hindi –लोबिया (lobiya).

Gujarati – ચોળા.

Malayalam –പയർ (payar).

Tamil –காராமணி.

Kannada –ಕೌಪ್ಪಿಯ (kauppiya).

Telugu – అలసంద(alasanda).

Bengali –বরবটি (Barabaṭi).

Punjabi –  ਗੋਰਾ.

Cowpea Varieties / Cowpea Cultivars

CoVu-702 (CO-7): This is an improved variety developed by TNAU. This variety is moderately resistant to pod borer pest and tolerant to other major diseases. The crop comes to harvest by 60 to 70 days. A farmer can expect a yield of 9 to 12 quintal per hectare and green fodder yield of 165 to 192 quintal per hectare.

RC-101: This variety can be harvested within 65 to 70 days. Afarmer can expect a yield of 7 to 10 quintals per hectare.

GC-3: This variety is developed by Gujarat Agricultural University. The variety is best suited to southern states. The crop comes to harvest by 60 to 75 days. A farmer can expect a yield of 9 to 15 quintals per hectare.

PusaSampada: This variety is a tall type with light green foliage. The crop comes to harvest by 90 to 100 days. The plants are tolerant to major diseases. A farmer can expect a yield of 8 to 10 quintals per hectare.

Rambha: This is a tall and trailing growth plant variety with dark green foliage. Seeds are dark red medium sized. The crop will be ready for harvest by 90 to 95 days. A farmer can expect a high yield of 12 to 15 quintal per hectare.

Swarna: This variety is developed by IARI, New Delhi. This plant variety has an early maturity and will be ready to harvest by 80 to 100 days. This variety is immune to all major diseases and good for grain and vegetable purpose. Seeds are moderately small and bicolored. A farmer can expect a high yield of 12 to 15 quintal per hectare.

Climate for Growing Cowpeas

Cowpea grows well in tropical regions where the weather is warm, as it is a heat-loving plant. In India, it is mainly grown in the central and southern regions as the weather is warm and humid. The plant can withstand drought while cold and frost it cannot tolerate. It can tolerate heavy rainfall unlike other pulses and thrives well in temperatures 26° C to 35° C. Cowpea plant can also grow well in the moderate shade while it prefers long days with short nights.

Soil requirement for Growing Cowpeas

The plant is well adapted to a variety of soils and grown throughout the world, especially in tropical regions. Soils that are well drained and sandy soil which is less restrictive to root growth are preferred. The plant is more tolerant to acidic and infertile soils than many other crops. Cowpea is less tolerant to cold and waterlogged soils, it thrives well in soils of pH 5.5 to 6.0 range.

Land preparation in Growing Cowpeas

Prepare the land by one deep plowing followed by two or three harrowing and planking by using a disc plow and harrow. The plant needs a normal seedbed preparation and should be leveled to avoid any water logging. Four to six days before sowing, bring the land to a fine tilth for good seed germination.

Propagation in Growing Cowpeas

Cowpeas ares propagated from seed.

Seed rate Growing Cowpeas

20 to 25 kilogram of seed is required for harvesting pure grain and vegetable, while for fodder and green manure a seed rate of 35 to 40 kilogram of seed is required.

Seed Treatment for Growing Cowpeas

Cowpea seeds must be treated with Rhizobium bacterial culture 600 grams before sowing.

Season in Growing Cowpeas

In India, in the southern regions, the crop is grown in all three seasons or almost throughout the year. Sowing is done from early June to late July as rainfed. October to November as rabi crop and sowing in March for the summer crop. In hilly and northern parts in cold regions, cowpea is sown in April to May.

Sowing and Spacing in Growing Cowpeas

Depending on the season and purpose sowing is carried out by broadcasting, row sowing or line sowing, and dibbling of seeds. However, line sowing is much preferred than a broadcasting method for seed harvesting. For harvesting as fodder and green manure, the broadcasting method is preferred. In high rainfall regions, prepare the land for excess rainwater drainage by preparing channels 30 cm wide, 15 cm deep and 2 to 5 cm apart. The spacing between plants is varied depending on crop variety, seasons and regions. For bushy and dwarf variety 30 cm apart between plants. For trailing variety maintain 40 to 45 cm apart between plants and for vine variety sow the seeds at 40 x 15 cm.

Irrigation in Growing Cowpeas

Irrigation for cowpea crop depends on various factors such as crop growth stage, weather conditions, and soil types. Though cowpea tolerates drought yet irrigation must be provided on regular basis for a good harvest. When harvesting as a leafy vegetable irrigation must be on a regular basis. Soils that are sandy, frequent irrigation will be required as soils do not hold water for long while in clay soils that hold water can be irrigated with less frequency. Irrigation for cowpea crop can be done through sprinklers, drip, and flooding methods. However, drip irrigation is much preferred as excess water will leach nutrients away from the roots in the soil. Three to four irrigations of three to four-centimeter depth must be carried out each at 14 to 18 days intervals during summer and no irrigation during the rainy season.

Manures and Fertilizers in Growing Cowpeas

For high yield and healthy crop growth, manure and nutrient management is essential. For cowpea growing, organic manure is more desirable than chemical fertilizers. For long-term fertility and good production optimum dose of chemical fertilizers along with farmyard manure must be carried out. Apply 25 tonnes per hectare of well-rotted farmyard manure along with 2 kilogram per hectare of Azospirillum and Phosphobacteria is mixed in soil at the last plow while preparing the land. Apply 25 kilograms of Nitrogen and 50 kilograms of Phosphorous per hectare for irrigated crop and for rainfed crop apply 12 to 15 tonnes per hectare of well-rotted farmyard manure along with 12 kilograms per hectare of Nitrogen and 25 kilograms of Phosphorous per hectare must be applied to soil in split doses every 15 days.

Inter crops in Growing Cowpeas

Cowpea is a versatile plant for intercropping with many other crops to have additional income. Cowpea is intercropped as food grain crop and as fodder for animals but mainly intercropped for fodder. In Central and Southern parts of India, cowpea is intercropped with any of sorghum, maize, bajra, or other pulses.

Intercultural operations in Growing Cowpeas

Weed Control in Growing Cowpeas 

Cowpea harvest gets affected by 50 to 60% by weed infestation. Regular weeding must be carried out either manually, mechanically, or chemically as and when required. For effective weed control, carryout field hoeing followed by hand picking every 20 to 25 days.

Pinching: Pinch the tendrils to encourage more branching making the plant bushier before flowering sets in. Doing so will increase flowering thereby increasing production.

Pests and Diseases in Growing Cowpeas

Even though cowpea is widely adapted crop across various climatic conditions, soils, seasons, and regions, still the production might go down because of pest and disease. The plant is prone to injuries from 85 insect species at various growing stages.  The common insects that attack the cowpea crop are Mexican bean and leaf bean beetles, pod borer, weevils, cowpea curculio, aphids, and leafhoppers.

The most common diseases that affect cowpea crop include bacterial canker, mosaic virus, leaf spot, rust, powdery mildew, root-knot nematode, damping-off, bacterial blight, scab, and web blight.

Most of the diseases can be controlled by sowing disease-resistant varieties and disease-free seeds by treating the seeds before sowing. Treat the seeds with hot water at 50° C for 25 to 30 minutes which eliminate fungal pathogens on the seeds. Seeds can also be treated by agitating seeds for one minute in one part of household bleach with half teaspoonful of liquid soap in four to five liters of water. Wash the seeds in running water for five minutes followed by drying them thoroughly. Spray the seeds with a copper compound can control bacterial blight. Pests can be controlled by cultural practices like crop rotation and discard larvae by handpicking and destroying infected leaves. Some of the insecticides available at the local nursery stores can be used by following the instructions.

Harvesting in Growing Cowpeas

Plants that are three weeks from sowing till starting of flowers can be harvested for their young leaves for a vegetable, older leaves can be quite coarse. For harvesting cowpea seeds, wait till pods turn to yellow but not till pods completely dry up as they may open up and shatter. Harvesting as fodder crop can be done when the crop is 45 to 50 days from sowing.

Yield in Growing Cowpeas

A farmer can expect a yield of 25 quintals per hectare under rainfed cultivation and 50 quintals per hectare under irrigated cultivation within a duration of 80 to 90 days.

Green fodder of about 150 to 250 quintal per hectare depending on variety can be gathered by 45 to 50 days.

Marketing of Cowpeas

Cowpea seeds can be marketed directly to the local market or retail outlets. Seed quality plays an important role in marketing the seed. Proper handling at the time of harvesting and post-harvesting must be undertaken to avoid cracked or split seed. Cowpea seeds come in varied colors such as black and purple eye, brown eye, white acre, cream, and Crowder are all in demand in the market.

Bottom Line Of Growing Cowpeas

Growing Cowpeas is excellent option as it requires less investment and high returns.

For Coconut Oil production: Read here.

For Pygmy Goat Care: Read here.


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