Cultivation of Cowpea ; A Complete Information Guide

Cultivation of Cowpea ; A Complete Information Guide

Cultivation of Cowpea ; A Complete Information Guide

Cowpea (
Vigna unguiculata) belongs to the family Leguminosae. Cowpea is a twining annual herbaceous plant. it is usually a self-pollinated crop and its seeds are bean-shaped and many times spotted with different colors such as brown, green-yellow, white, and mottled. 

Cowpea popularly known as ‘lobia’ is used as a pulse, fodder, and green manure crop. 
Cowpea is probably a native of central Africa where almost all the wild forms are found About 90 percent of the total world acreage is in Africa. Cowpea crop is also grown in Asia, north and south America, Australia, central and southern parts of Europe. In India, Cowpea crop is mainly cultivated in central and peninsular regions. In northern parts of  India, it is cultivated in UP, Punjab, Delhi, and Haryana.
Cowpea is often grown as green manure for soil improvement. The crop gives such a heavy vegetative growth and covers the ground so well that it checks the soil erosion in problem areas and can later be ploughed in as green manure. It has considerable promise as an alternative pulse crop in dryland farming.

Nutritive Value of Cowpea;

The cowpea crop is rich in protein and containing many other nutrients and it is also called as vegetable meat.  It is used for both human consumption and as a concentrate feed for cattle. The crop forms excellent forage. The feeding value of cowpea forage is high and quite comparable to lucerne.
The nutritive value of 100 gms cowpea is as follows ; 






8.0 g


278 mg


21.0 g


4 mg


7.0 g


2% DV


0.5 g


13% DV


116 Kcal


13% DV


3.3 g

Vitamin B6

5% DV

Note ;* % Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. The daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie  requirements

Classification of Cowpea;

All the cultivated types have been classified into three groups:
(1) Vigna sinensis (cowpea): Pods are 20-30 centimetre long containing 0.6 to 0.9 centimeter long seeds. On drying, pods are neither flabby nor inflated. 

(2) Vigna sinensis sub, sp. catjang (Indian cowpea): Pods are 7.5 to 12.5 centimeter long; erect or ascending when green, spreading or deflexed when dry. Seeds are 0.5 to 0.6 centimetres long and nearly as thick as broad. 
(3) Vigna sinensis sub. sp. sesquipedalis: Pods are 30-60 centimeter long and pendent. On drying, pods are inflated flabby and shrinking between seeds before drying. Seeds are 0.8 to 1.2 centimeters long.

Climatic Requirements for Cowpea Cultivation ;

Cowpea can be grown in all tropical and subtropical climates. Being a warm-weather crop it can withstand a considerable degree of drought. But under very dry conditions the plants produce a poor crop. Germination of cowpea is better between 12 and 15°C temperatures. The crop thrives best between 27 and 35°C temperatures. It can also grow under the shade of trees but can not tolerate cold or frost.

Soil Requirements for Cowpea Cultivation ;

Cowpea crop can be cultivated on a variety of soils. But the well-drained loam or slightly heavy soils are best suited for cowpea crops cultivation. Saline or alkaline soils are not suited to cowpea cultivation.

Important Varieties of Cowpea;

Cultivation of Cowpea ; A Complete Information Guide

According to use, there are different varieties. However, the same variety may be raised for more than one purpose. For instance, variety meant for grain may be used for vegetable and fodder purposes. Similarly, fodder varieties may be used for green manuring purposes. Several cowpea varieties are grown in various parts of our country. The promising ones are as below:
a) Grain purpose ; 

C – 152, Pusa Phalguni, Amba (V – 16) (M), Ramba (V240)(M), Swarna (V – 38) (M), GC – 3, Pusa Sampada (V – 585), Shreshtha (V – 37) (M)
b) For Vegetable purpose ;
Pusa Phalguni, Pusa Barsati, and FS 68
c) For Fodder Purpose; 
GFC 1, GFC 2, GFC 3, – Kharif season, GFC – 4 Summer (25 – 35 tonnes/ha), Bundel Lobia – 1,UPC – 287 and UPC – 5286 , Russian Giant, K – 395,K-397, IGFRI – 5450 (Kohinoor), C – 88(20 – 35 tonnes/ha in Punjab), C-22,C-55 UPC 5287, UPC – 4200 (NE India), UPC 618, UPC 62, UPC 622, UPC 625 UPC 628,T-2
Varieties on the Basis of Growth;
a) Bushy Type;

Pusa Komal. Arka Garima, Arka Samrudhi, Arka Suman,Bhagyalakshmy, Pusa Barsathi,

b) Semitrailing Type ;

 Kairali, Varun, Arka Garima Anaswara, Kanakamony (PTB-1).
c) Trailing Type ; 
Arka Mangala ,Sharika, Malika, KMV-1, Lola, Vyjayanthi, Manjeri Local, Vyalathur Local, Kurutholapayar .

Rotation and Mixed Cropping in Cowpea;

a) For Grain or Vegetable Purpose (one year)
1. Maizt-wheat-cowpea 
2. Paddy-wheat-cowpea 
3. Cowpea-wheat-chcena 
4. Maize-potato-cowpea 
5. Maize-toria-wheat-cowpea
b) For Fodder Purpose ;( for one year)
1. Jowar+cowpea–berseem-maize+cowpea 
2. Maize-oat-maize + cowpea 
3. Maize-berseem-maize+copwea 
4. Jowar-berseem-maize + cowpea 
5. Sudan grass-berseem-maize + cowpea

Field Preparation for Cowpea Cultivation;

The stubbles and other residues of the previous crop should be picked up as far as possible to have a clean and smooth seedbed. The field should be prepared by giving two or three cross harrowings followed by planking. 

In case of  the summer season crop provide a pre-irrigation immediately after harvesting of Rabi crop. When the field comes in condition, prepare it by giving two or three harrowings.

Seed and Sowing for Cowpea Cultivation ;

a) Sowing Time ;
The suitable time for sowing summer cowpea crops is March to April. It varies according to field availability. 

The sowing for the Kharif crop starts from the middle of June and extends up to the end of July. 
In hills, this crop is sown in April-May. For green manuring, the crop should be sown from the middle of June to the first week of July.
b) Seed Rate ;
1)For grain or vegetable purposes,
20-25 kg seed is required for sowing of the one-hectare pure crop. When the cowpea sown mixed as a mixed crops, the seed rate is reduced proportionately. 
2) For fodder purposes the seed rate should be 35-45 kg per hectare. Variation in seed rate depends on several factors such as the method of sowing, availability of soil moisture, and the seed size of a variety. 
3)For green manuring crop, sown by broadcasting, the seed requirement is 35-40 kg per hectare.
c) Method of sowing;
The row spacing of 30-45 centimeter and plant to plant distance of 8-10 centimeter may be maintained for Kharif planting. 
The row spacing in spring and summer planting should be kept 25-30 centimeters as the plants do not grow much. 
d) Seed Treatment; Seeds should be treated with Thiram at the rate of per kg of seed before sowing The crop can be sown either with a teed drill or behind a local plough

Manures and Fertilizers;

Being a leguminous crop, it needs a small quantity of nitrogen for the early growth period on those soils which are poor in organic matter. 

Such soils should get about 15-20 kg of nitrogen per hectare as a starter dose. The application of phosphorus is very important as it promotes the proper development of roots and the function of Rhizobium bacteria. 
Apply 50-60 kg of P2O5, per hectare in the soil before sowing in case soil test values are not available. It is advisable to apply phosphatic fertilizers according to soil test recommendations. 
The fertilizer should be applied by drilling at the time of sowing in such a way that it is placed about 5-7 centimeter below the seed

Water Management in Cowpea Crop;

The rainy season crop requires no irrigation but good drainage is essential. 

The early sown rainy season crop may need one or two irrigations in the pre-monsoon period.
For raising summer crops, five to six irrigations may be given. During summer, because of high temperature and low relative humidity, more irrigations are needed as compared to the Kharif crop. 
The number and frequency of irrigation depend upon the soil type and weather prevailing during the growth period. Generally, the crop should get irrigation at an interval of 10-15 days.

Weed Control in Cowpea;

Effective control of weeds in the first 20-25 days of the crop season is essential. At least two weddings and hoeings are required to check the weeds. 

During the rainy season, weeds can be controlled by the use of chemicals too. Use Basalin 1 kg a.i. per hectare in 800-1000 liters of water as a pre-planting spray. I should be well incorporated into the soil before sowing.

Diseases and Pest of Cowpea Crops;

Disese Manegaement ; 
a) Bacterial Blight of Cowpea ;
Symptoms of disease first appear on the cotyledons, primary, and the new trifoliate leaves. The affected cotyledons are red and shriveled. Necrotic spots are found on the marrins of the primary leaves. Thereafter, the casual bacterium affects the stem and finally covers other parts of the plant. Growing points of the affected leaves are destroyed resulting in quicker death of plants. Cankers are also found on stem from where the plant may break because of the wind.
Control Measures
(1) Grow resistant varieties (2) Use healthy seed from disease-free field. (3) In case of severe infection, crop may be sprayed with 0.2 % Copper oxychloride (Blitox)
b) Cowpea Mosaic;
It is a disease caused by a virus transmitted by aphids. The affected leaves become pale yellow and exhibit mosaic, vein banding symptoms. The affected leaves become reduced in size and show puckering. Pods are also reduced and become twisted.
Control Measures
(1) Use healthy seeds from the healthy crops. (2) For controlling aphids apply acephate spray Metasystox @0.1 % or 
Imidacloprid 17. 8 SL @ 0. 2 ml/ liter of water and repeat the spray after 10 days of first spray or any other systemic fungicide.
c) Powdery Mildew; 
Powdery mildew symptoms are visible on all the aerial parts of the affected plants. Symptoms first start from leaves and then spread to stem branches and pods. Symptoms start with white powdery growth on leaves which may coalesce and cover the whole leaf with the white powdery growth. This white growth consists of the fungus and its spores. Affected leaves become twisted and smaller in size.
Control Measures
(1) After harvest, collect the plants left in the field and burn them. (2) The disease can be controlled by  dusting Sulphur 25 kg/ha or spray Wettable sulphur 2 g/lit.or Apply 
carbendazim @1 g/liter of water
d) Rust ;
This disease affects the leaves, pods, and sometimes new shoots. Symptoms on the leaves are very clearly visible and start from the lower surface of the leaf where very small white pustules are found. These pustules contain uredia of the fungus. Brown colored urediospores come out of these uredia. At the end of the season, these urediospores may be replaced with black colored telia.
Control Measures ;
Spray the crop with Dithane M-45 at the rate of 2 kg per hectare in 1000 liters of water.
Insect Pests Manaement ;
a) Hairy Caterpillar
It is one of the most important pests of cowpea crop. It causes were damage to the crop, by eating away all the green matter of the leaves The adult moth of this caterpillar lays eggs in large clusters, and these young larvae are also congregated. They may damage the crop al seedling stage Damage can be so severe that sometimes re-lowing may be necessary
Control Measures
(1) Collect and destroy the eggs and young larvae. (2) The young caterpillars can be killed by dusting 10 % BHC
dust at the rate of 25-30 kg per hectare. For full-grown caterpillars spray 1.5 liter Endosulfan 35 EC in 1000 liters of water per hectare.
b)Leaf Hoppers, Jassids, and Aphids ;
The adults and nymphs of these pests suck the juice from the leaves and the damage is more severe when the plants are young. As a result of sucking the sap, the leaves turn brown and crumpled and the plants look! sick.
Control Measures 
(1) Spray the crop with 0.1% Metasystox or 0.04% Monocrotophos 40 EC. (2) Give basal application of Thimet 10% granules at the rate of 10 kg per hectare.

Harvesting and Threshing of Cowpea Crop ;

Green pods for use as vegetables can be harvested 45 to 90 days after sowing depending on the variety. 

Pods should be harvested while tender, otherwise yield may be poor and pods may develop fibers due to longer retention on the plant. 
For grains, the crop can be harvested in about 90-125 days after sowing when pods are fully matured. The crop should be then dried and threshed. The threshed grains should be dried in sun before storage.
For fodder, the cutting of the crop depends upon the need and the stage of growth of the component crop sown with it. In general, the crop should be cut when it attains the age of 40-45 days.

The Yield of Cowpea

A good crop of cowpea yields about 12-15 quintals of grain and 50-60 quintals of straw per hectare.

In case crop is raised for fodder purposes, 250 – 350 quintals of green fodder are obtained from one-hectare pure crop.

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