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Agriculture > Vegetables > Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata)

About the crop

Botanical Name: Vigna unguiculata

Cowpea can be grown throughout the year under Kerala conditions. It can be grown as a floor crop in coconut gardens and as an intercrop in tapioca during May- Sept. It can be grown as a pure crop in single crop and double crop rice fallows during rabi & summer seasons. Cowpea can be grown in homestead garden throughout the year and in kole lands of Thrissur district during summer where rice crop cannot be raised due to water scarcity.

Climate & Soil

Warm humid climate. Well drained soils.


  • Cowpea can be grown during any season
  • As a rainfed crop, sowing is done in the month of June. The most suitable time is after the first week of June.
  • During the second crop season (rabi), ie: Sept- Dec, cowpea can be grown as a fringe crop along the rice field bunds. Sowing can be done on either side of bunds on the day of transplanting the paddy crop.
  • During summer, cowpea can be grown as pure crop in rice fallows after the harvest of paddy.

Varieties(Vegetable Type)

Semi trailing:

Kanakamony:(PTB-1) Semi trailing dual purpose type. Pods are green in colour and bold seeded. Suitable for the kitchen gardens.

Anaswara: Light green medium long pods.

Kairali: Violet coloured medium long pods.

Varun: Long purple poded and bold seeded.

Arka Garima


Sharika: High yielding. Long white pods with purple tip. Seeds black in colour.

Malika: High yielding. Long light green pods without purple tip. Seeds brown with a white speck having irregular shape at one end.

Lola: High yielding. Long light green pods with purple tip and brown seeds.

Vyjayanthi: Long wine red extra long pods with brown seeds.

KMV-1: Light green pods with brown tips.

Vellayani Jyothika: Light green pods. Tolerant to Fussarium wilt.

Manjeri Local, Vyalathur Local, Kurutholapayar, Geethika


Bhagyalakshmy: Bushy growth habit with light green medium sized pods.

Pusa Barsathi, Pusa Komal, Kanchan

Grain type:

C-152, S-488, Pusa Phalguni, P-118, Pusa Do Fasli, Krishnamony (PTB-2), V-240, Amba (V-16), GC-827, CO-3, Pournami (in summer rice fallows) and Shubra (suited for cultivation in rice fallows during summer season in Southern districts of Kerala, Sreya and Hridya(summer rice fallows of Onattukara) GC-3 and RC- 101, DCS- 47-1 (suitable for rabi season).

Dual purpose type:

Kanakamony (PTB-1), Anaswara and New Era, Anaswara

As companion crop with tapioca: V-26

Floor crop: Gujarat V-118, CO-2



Seed rate: Bushy type: 20-25 Kg/ha

Trailing type: 4-5 Kg /ha

For grain and dual purpose type:

Broadcasting : 60- 65 kg/ha (45kg/ha for Krishnamony)

Dibbling : 50- 60 kg/ha ( 40 kg/ha for Krishnamony)

Spacing : 25cm x 15cm dibbling two seeds per hole.

Bush : 30cm x 15cm

Trailing : 2m x 2m ( on pandal @ 3 plants/pit )

Seed Treatment:

Thiourea application on cowpea

Soaking of cowpea seeds in 500 ppm thiourea before sowing followed by two foliar sprays of thiourea (500 ppm) one at vegetative and one at flowering stage should be done to obtain higher grain yield of cowpea.This will increase the yield by 26% and net return by 50%.

Increase the yield by 26% and net return by 50%

Thiourea 500ppm solution can be prepared by mixing 500mg thiourea in one litre of water. Thiourea seed soaking should be done for 4- 5 hrs followed by drying in shade & sowing should be done in the next morning. Seed soaking should be done in night (not in day time). Spraying should be done either during morning or evening time only.

Seed inoculation and pelleting

Cowpea seeds should be inoculated with Rhizobium and pelleted with lime. Rhizobium cultures are available from the Assistant Soil Chemist, Microbiological Laboratory, Soil Testing Centre, Pattambi 679 306, Palakkad District. The strains that are available at Pattambi are the two isolates ( No.11 and No. 12) developed by Kerala Agricultural University.

Procedure for seed inoculation

The content of each packet of Rhizobium inoculant is sufficient for seed to be sown in the area indicated on the packet (250 to 375g/ha). Use the inoculant only for the specific leguminous crop mentioned on the packet, before the expiry date. Do not expose the Rhizobium culture to direct sunlight or heat. Mix the inoculant uniformly with the seeds by using minimum quantity of water (instead of water, either 2.5% starch solution or kanjivellam of the previous day can be used in order to ensure better stickiness of the inoculant with the treated seed material). Take care to avoid any damage to the seed coat. Dry the inoculated seeds under shade over a clean paper or gunny bag and sow immediately. The Rhizobium culture or the inoculated seeds should not be mixed with chemical fertilizers.

Procedure for lime pelleting

  1. Add finely powdered (300 mesh) calcium carbonate to moist fresh Rhizobium treated seeds and mix for 1-3 minutes until each seed is uniformly pelleted. Depending on the seed size the following quantity of lime will be required.

    Small seeds : 1.0 kg/ 10 kg of seed
    Medium sized seeds : 0.6 kg/ 10kg of seed
    Large sized seeds : 0.5 kg/ 10 kg of seed

  2. Spread out the pelleted seeds on a clean paper to harden. Sow them as soon as possible. However, lime pelleted seeds can be stored up to one week in a cool place prior to sowing.

    1. Lime coating is required only for seeds that are to be sown in acid soils.
    2. Ordinary agricultural lime is not good for pelleting because of its larger particle size. Good quality high grade lime should be used.
    3. Hydrated lime should not be used for pelleting.
    4. The dry pellet should be firm enough to resist moderate pressure. It should appear dry without loose lime on its surface or in the container.
    5. The lime pelleted seeds can be mixed with the fertilizer & sown. However, the period of contact between fertilizer and the pelleted seeds should be as short as possible.
    6. Pelleted seeds should not be sown into a dry seed bed.

Sowing and spacing:

Plough the land thoroughly 2-3 times and remove weeds and stubbles. Make channels of 30 cm breadth and 15cm depth at 2m apart to drain off excess rainwater. For grain type & dual purpose type, if dibbling is adopted, spacing of 25cm between rows and 15cm between plants is recommended with 2 seeds/ hole. If broadcasting is adopted, the seeds can be sown broadcast over the field and channels drawn after sowing. For bush vegetable type, spacing of 30cm between rows & 15cm between plants is suitable. For semi trailing varieties, provide a spacing of 45 x 30 cm. trailing varieties can be sown in pits (3 plants/pit) at 2 x 2m spacing for trailing on pandal or in channels at 1.5m x 45cm spacing for trailing on trellis.


Intercultural Operations

Nutrient management

Apply FYM 20 t/ha. NPK 20:30:10 kg/ha. Lime : 250kg/ha or dolomite 400kg/ ha. Lime may be applied at the time of the first ploughing. Half the quantity of N, whole of phosphorus and potash may be applied at the time of final ploughing. The remaining N may be applied 15-20 days after sowing.

[Note: For vegetable cowpea grown as an intercrop in the reclaimed alluvial soils of Kuttanad, N:P:K @ 10: 20: 10 kg/ha are recommended. For vegetable cowpea, fertilizers can be applied in several split doses at fortnightly intervals]


Hoeing at the time of application of application of second dose of nitrogen will give adequate aeration to the soil and help the root system to spread easily. Grain & dual purpose varieties, decapitation is found to be advantageous as the crop shows trailing tendency. For vegetable types, provide trellis or pandals for trailing. Application of Planofix @ 3-6 ml in 10 litres water one month after sowing will improve the yield. Approximately 2.5litre solution is required for one cent. Repeat the application 2 months after sowing. Excessive vegetative growth is a problem in some of the varieties. Withhold irrigation and apply Potash to induce flowering.


Giving two irrigations is highly beneficial, ie: at 15 days after sowing & at the time of flowering. Irrigation at the flowering stage induces better flowering and pod set.


Plant Protection

The fungus Fusarium pallidoroseum can be used for controlling black pea aphid. Bran based fungus can be applied at the rate of 3 kg per 400 m2 immediately after infestation is observed. One application is sufficient.


Anthracnose of cowpea (Colletotrichum lindemuthianum)

Causes water soaked lesions on leaves, which later become brown and enlarge to form circular spots. The infection may spread to the petiole and young stem also. Petiole infection results in defoliation. Anthtracnose can be managed with seed treatment with Thiram @ 3g/kg of seed followed by Carbendazim spray @ 0.05 per cent at 15, 30 & 45 days after seedling emergence.

Dry root rot of cowpea (Macrophomina phaseolina)

Infected plant suddenly wilts and dies. The bark of the root and basal stem becomes fibrous. The disease appears in patches and become severe during dry periods. Dry root rot can be managed by seed treatment with Trichoderma viride @ 4g/kg of seed or Carbendazim 0.05 per cent of seed or Psuedo-monas fluorescens @ 10g/kg of seed or neem cake soil application @ 20 kg/ ha.

Spray malathion (0.1 per cent) or quinalphos (0.05 per cent) for controlling pea aphids.

Spray carbaryl 0.2 per cent to protect the crop from pod borers. Repeat the application, if infestation persists. Apply the insecticides after harvesting mature pods and pick the pods only 10 days after the application of insecticides.


Pest Management

Pod borer: Larvae bore the pods. Neem oil emulsion 5%/ Carbaryl 0.2% /Fenthion (Labacid 50EC) 1ml per litre. Field sanitation

American serpentine leaf miner : Eats away the chlorophyll of the leaves leaving snake like white scars on the leaf lamina. Neem oil emulsion 10%, ield sanitation.

Black pea aphids : Sucks sap from the leaves, stem, flowers and pods. Neem oil emulsion 10%/ Nattappochedi – soap emulsion/ fungus Fusarium pallidoroseum at 300g/cent immediately after infestation is observed. (only 1 application is necessary). Spray Malathion (0.05%) or quinalphos (0.03%) for controlling pea aphids.

Pod bug : Adults and nymphs suck sap from the pods. Pods get shriveled and discoloured. 20g garlic paste in Malathion 50 EC @ 4 ml per litre, Mechanical control.

[Note: Apply the insecticides after harvesting mature pods and pick the pods only 10 days after the application of insecticides.]

IPM package against major pests of cowpea

  1. Burning of trash before sowing.
  2. Selection of seeds from healthy plants.
  3. Clean cultivation.
  4. Soil drenching with Bordeaux mixture 1% wherever fungal diseases is prevalent.
  5. Treating the seeds with Rhizobium culture @ 250 – 375 g/ha before sowing.
  6. Monitoring the field incidence of pests/population of natural enemies especially at flowering stage (for Aphis craccivora, epilachna beetles and pod borers) and at pod formation stage for pod bugs.
  7. Adoption of mechanical methods of pest control such as application of dry leaf ash at 10 DAS, keeping yellow sticky trap/ yellow pan tray, collection and destruction of infested leaves, flower buds and pods, sweeping & destruction of pests.
  8. Collection and release of potential natural enemies viz: grubs & adults of Coccinella transversalis,Cheilo menes sexmaculatus,Harmonia octo maculata and maggots of Ischiodon scutellare
  9. Need based application of F.pallidoroseum @ 7 x 106 /ml specifically for the management of A. craccivora.
  10. Need based application of 5% neem kernel suspension (NKS) or Chlorpyriphos 0.05% at 45 DAS in the case of moderate incidence of A.craccivora, pod borers & a secondary spray using 5% NKS at 60 DAS if needed against pod borers & pod bugs.

For protecting cowpea seeds against pests under storage conditions, smear the seeds with groundnut or coconut oil at 1%.

Spray Quinalphos 0.03% at 60 DAS in the field along with treatment in storage with dried powdered rhizome of Vayambu (Acorus calamus) 1kg/100kg seed for controlling bruches beetle in cowpea.

The root knot nematode and reniform nematode associated with cowpea can be effectively managed by the application of neem and eupatorium leaves @ 15t/ha, two weeks before sowing.

Spray 1% Bordeaux mixture in early stages to protect the crop from fungal diseases.

For protecting the crop from anthracnose, treat the seeds with Carbendazim(0.05%) and spray the crop with Bordeaux mixture 1% or Carbendazim 0.05% at 15, 30 and 45 days after seedling emergence.

Dry root rot of cowpea can be managed by seed treatment with Trichoderma viridae 4g/kg of seed or Carbendazim 2g/kg of seed or Pseudomonas fluorescens 10g/kg of seed or neem cake soil application @ 20kg/ha.

Disease Management

Anthracnose : Black lesions on leaves and vines, drying of the vines. Seeds treatment with Bavistin @ 2g per kg, 1% Bordeaux mixture/ Fytolan @4g per litre, Field sanitation. Resistant varieties. Application of Trichoderma.

Basal swelling and rot : Swelling, decay in the collar region and rot. Seeds treatment with Bavistin @ 2g per kg, 1% Bordeaux mixture/ Fytolan @ 4g per litre, Field sanitation. Application of Trichoderma.

Mosaic : Yellow mottled appearance on leaves and stunted growth of the plant. Aphid control- 10% neem oil emulsion, Healthy seeds.

Powdery mildew : Ashy spots on the leaves and stem. Apply Karathane 2ml/l.


Harvesting & Post harvest operations


Harvest at tender stages when the tip is pliable and they snap. For grain purpose pods are harvested when they start drying.
Yield: Green pod yield of 10-20 tons and grain yield of 1.2-1.5 tons per ha.

Post Harvesting

The pods are then to be pre-cooled in shade to reduce the field heat. They are the tied into small bundles and packed. The seeds are sun dried till they become brittle. The seeds are extracted by using bamboo stick or pulse thresher.


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