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Cowpeas Cultivation Farming

Robert is an Agribusiness Consultant, who studied Agribusiness Management

Cowpeas Cultivation

Cowpeas Cultivation

Cowpeas Cultivation Farming

Cowpea is commonly grown in dry lands of different countries around the globe and is one of the most important crops and it is gaining popularity across the world. Cowpeas are able to give better results in low rainfall areas and they are known to be drought tolerant unlike other crops. Cowpeas provide excellent human nutrition and has also a good rotational benefits. It can also be grown together with Maize (intercropping) and still achieve a better yields. This article will provide in detail on how to grow cowpeas as well as it management requirements.

Key facts of Cowpeas

  1. It can be intercropped with cereal crops like Maize or be grown as pure stand.
  2. It is able to withstand adverse conditions and still gives a better yields and it's known to be drought resistant. It also performs well in a wide range of soils.
  3. It can be grown for dual purposes; Can be grown as a leafy vegetable and for its grain use.
  4. It's plant types can be categorized into three and these are; erect, semi- erect or trailing types.
  5. Cowpeas are rich in the following nutrition ingredients; calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B complex.


Make sure you select a variety that matches with agroecological conditions of your areas. This can be based on its suitability for the prevalent climatic conditions and cropping systems in your area. Different varieties have got different maturity date or required time, therefore, the choice of type of variety to grow is based on maturity period, yield potential, drought tolerance, responsiveness to daylength, pest and disease resistance among others.

Types of Cowpeas varieties

We have got two types of Cowpeas varieties and these are; upright, bunch types, used mainly for grain production; and spreading types, which may be used for grain, vegetable or fodder.

Climatic Requirements For Cowpeas Farming


Cowpeas are known to perfom well in summer period. They require a base temperature of 8,5°C to germinate and for leaf growth it requires a temperature of 20°C. Cowpea is both a heat-loving and drought-tolerant crop unlike other crop types. The optimum temperature for growth and development of Cowpeas is known to occur in a temperature range of 28 to 31 °C .

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Cowpeas are known to be drought tolerant plants and they can be grown under rainfall ranging from 400 to 700 mm per annum. Cowpeas are also able to withstand waterlogging condition unlike other crops, however, always make sure your field is not waterlogged as this can be a source of diseases and pests. Cowpeas are able to give reasonable yield on annual rainfall of a range 400 to 750 mm. If your area has high annual rainfall, make sure Cowpeas are planted at a time to coincide with the peak period of rainfall during the vegetative phase or flowering stage so that the pod-drying could take place during dry weather to be able to get a better yield.

Soil requirements

Cowpeas performs well on sandy soils, which tend to be less restrictive on root growth, however they can also be grown on a wide range of soils. Cowpeas are able to withstand infertile and acid soils than many other crops. The optimum soil pH for growing Cowpeas falls in a range of 5,6 to 6,0.

Cultivation Practices

1. Site selection

Make sure you select a well-drained sandy loam soil for growing your Cowpeas and a good site is directly related to the yields. It is known that Cowpea does not tolerate excessively wet conditions or waterlogging and should not be grown on poorly drained soil unlike other crops. Always make sure your site has right moisture content all the time.

2. Propagation

We use seed to grow Cowpeas and these seeds are directly planted or sown in the field.

3. Soil preparation

Make sure you clear the site of shrubs and stubble in preparation for Cowpeas cultivation. Alternatively, you can spray the field with Glyphosat at the rate of 4 L/ha and leave the field for at least 10 days for emerging weeds to die. Land can also be prepared manually with the hand-hoe, but make sure the soil is cultivated deep enough to ensure that no barrier exists to penetration of the soil by Cowpeas taproot. Cowpeas can also be grown under zero tillage technology in areas with high soil erosion.

4. Planting

Cowpeas can be planted anytime from the first rains provided the soil has right soil moisture content. In high rainfall areas, it is recommended to plant cowpeas late to avoid diseases when the crop reaches maturity. The following are the recommended plant population and spacing; for the spreading types, make sure you plant 60 000 plants per ha (12 to 15 kg seed per ha). For the ppright, bunch types make sure you plant 120 000 plants per ha (30 to 50 kg seed per ha). Make sure you plant the Cowpeas at the start of the rain season for better yields and make sure the seed are planted to a depth of 3 to 4 centimeters.

5. Fertilization

Make sure you apply low rate compound fertilizer at a rate of 100 to 200 kg per hectare for better yield. Make sure before you apply any fertilizer you conduct a soil analysis to know the soil nutrition ingredients and any application of fertilizer should depend on the soil analysis report. It is recommended to apply more single super phosphate fertilizers than nitrogen fertilizers as Cowpea needs high phosphorus than nitrogen. This phosphorus can be in the form of single super phosphate or SUPA. Apply this Phosphorus about 30 kg per hectare.

7. Irrigation

Keep on checking soil moisture content and apply additional water through Irrigation when soil moisture content is low.

8. Weed control

Make sure your Cowpeas field is kept free from weeds, as this can be sources of pests and diseases which can decrease the output. The weeds can be checked through the use of herbicides, but make sure you follow the given instructions. Similarly you can also remove weeds in your Cowpeas field manually using hands.


For the erect or semi-erect types or Cowpeas, it requires about 100 days from the time of planting to be ready for harvesting. For the grain type, it requires a long time about 120 days. Cowpea can be harvested using a harvester or by hand picking.

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