When talking about Cowpea Production, it is necessary to pay close attention to all the details that will be discussed, to have full knowledge on what the term is all about.
Cowpea is known as southern pea, black-eyed peas, black -eyed beans, China peas and marble peas. Cowpea is also the second most important food grain legume crop in tropical Africa.
About 80% of the world’s production is in Africa with Nigeria being the leading producer. Cowpea is an important food for humans and provides feed, forage, hay and silage for livestock and green manure and cover crops.
The dry seeds may be grounded into meal or flour which is used in a number of ways. The fresh seeds and immature pods are eaten as vegetables. The young shoots and leaves are eaten as spinach.
SITE SELECTION FOR COWPEA PRODUCTION
Cowpea is a warm weather crop preferring temperature of 20-35°C for optimum growth.
The most Cowpea crops are produced under rainfed farming.
The crop is also grown on soils with high water holding capacity (under residual soil moisture or under irrigation when the cold season crops like wheat are harvested).
Cowpea is grown over a wide range of soil types provided drainage is good.
But for optimum yields light sandy loans are preferred.
VARIETIES OF COWPEA
Examples of common varieties includes:–
SAMPEA-7 (IAR 48)
Cowpea are usually intercropped with crops like Millet, sorghum, and maize but can be grown as sole crop.
In the traditional cereal farming system Cowpea are inter-planted about 6-10 weeks after cereals are sown.
It is recommended that the Cowpea should be relay cropped after the cereals have been weeded and earthen up.
Some advantages are associated with this system.
The spreading growth of the Cowpea mothers weeds, protecting the soil from impact of heavy rainfall and it is likely that the cereal derives some nitrogen from the root nodules of the Cowpea especially towards the ends of the growing season.
Similarly, the roots of the Cowpea also excrete a substance that stimulates germination of parasitic witch weed (striga); therefore it is useful as a trap crop.
In rotation systems Cowpea provides disease break in cereals or tuber crops as diseases that commonly attack cereal and tuber crops do not affect cowpea.
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LAND PREPARATION FOR COWPEA PRODUCTION
Land preparation depends on the cropping system (whether the crop is grown sole or intercropped).
If it is intercropped no serious land preparation is needed but when grown as a sole crop, good land preparation is required.
PLANTING DATES, TIME AND METHODS
Time of sowing depends on the ecology and should be such as to enable the crop to flower close to the end of rainy season so that the grains mature in dry weather.
In Nigeria, Cowpea is sown end of June to early-July in the Sudan zone, mid-July in Northern Guinea savannah, mid – to late -July in the northern others part of the southern Guinea savanna and as soon as the late season rain starts in the southern part of the southern Guinea savanna and about mid-August in the derived savanna and rainforest zones.
Sowing should be done in moist soil at 10-30 cm intra- row and 60-90cm inter-row depending on the type of cowpea.
Erect types are sown at closer spacing than the spreading types.
The seed rate for spreading types is 10-15 kg/ha and is 25-30 kg/ha for erect varieties.
Sow their seeds per hole and thin to two plants per stand at 2WAS.
On a land down with Cowpea for the first time, it should be inoculated with a fresh culture of Cowpea bacteria for proper root nodulation and nitrogen fixation.
Inoculation should be done before sowing.
Cowpea germinate normally within three days.
Cowpea strives well under good soil condition.
Cowpea requires loamy or sandy/loam soils.
It is also important to grow Cowpea in rotation with cereal crops to provide natural soil enrichment.
It is recommended to apply 5-10 tons of Farm Yard Manure in order to improve soil nutrients, texture and structure.
INTEGRATED SOIL FERTILITY MANAGEMENT
Where Cowpea is grown in mixtures (intercropped) it comes late and the fertilizer applied to the main crop will meet the cowpea requirement. But when sown for the first time in the field or where the soil is nitrogen deficient application of starter dose of N at 20 kg/ha is necessary.
Cowpea has a high requirement for P particularly towards the end of the growing period. This is because 80% of the total P uptake is absorbed in the last 30 days of growth and is mostly translocate to the seeds.
There is no response of K fertilizers in most savannah soil because of high K- status.
However, it has a high K requirement and the general fertilizer recommendation is 20 kg N, 40kg P2O5 and 20kg K2O per ha.
The fertilizer is applied at sowing but not beyond 2 WAS.
N application should not be delayed because, it will interfere with the natural process of N-fixation in the root nodules.
Cowpea requires relatively less water compared to maize and rice
It requires an annual rainfall of 500 to 600mm.
Cowpea must be kept weed-free during the early growth stages before attaining full cover especially when grown as sole crop.
Weed control is achieved by hand pulling, hoe weeding at 3 and 6 WAS or with animal drawn implements or herbicides such as Metolachlor + Prometryn @ 2 kg a.i/ha P.E (1 ¼ *MTM in 10 litre-Knapsack Sprayer), Metolachlor (1.5kg a.i/ha) + Diuron (0.6kg a.i/ha) P.E ( ¾ + ¼ *MTM in 10 litre-Knapsack Sprayer), Metolachlor + Metobromuron (2-3 kg a.i/ha) PE ( 1 ¼ *MTM in 10 litre-Knapsack Sprayer).
SAFETY USE AND HANDLING OF PESTICIDES
Precautions must be followed to ensure safe use of pesticides.
Even after use, the empty containers must be disposed very well by burying them.
Instructions as stated on the label of the pesticides must be followed while only trained personnel should apply pesticide at recommended rate.
The personnel should also wear protective clothing during application of pesticide.
The harvested pods must be dried to reduce the moisture content of the seeds to 10% for safe storage.
Thoroughly dried pods are easily threshed by hand (sticks) or with a conventional thresher.
NB: Thresh on mat or tarpaulin to avoid contamination with stones and other foreign objects.
Cowpeas are susceptible to storage weevil and other insects.
Timely harvesting will minimize the damage since infestation often began on the field where eggs are laid before taken away for storage.
All containers and storage structures should be clean.
Air-tight storage structure should be clean.
Air-tight storage is environmentally safe and friendly and proven to be effective.
As much as possible avoid the use of chemicals during storage.
Where the use of chemicals become necessary, then use organic products where available otherwise use synthetic pesticides with the highest LD values and least risks to farmer and consumer.
Ensure that farmers comply with the instructions on the labels and observe the warning periods before taking their stored produce to markets.
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