Gepts, Paul Department of Agronomy and Range Science, University of California, Davis, California.
Kuhn, Cedric W. Department of Plant Pathology and Genetics, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia.
Last reviewed:December 2019
- Utilization and nutritional qualities
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
An annual legume, Vigna unguiculata (alternatively V. sinensis), also called southern pea, black-eyed pea, black-eyed bean and niébé, cultivated for its edible seeds. The cowpea is an important source of dietary protein for human consumption and of animal feed in the tropics. This is especially true in Africa, Brazil and India, where cowpeas are grown mostly as a subsistence crop for home consumption and are not sold in markets. The cowpea is adapted to hotter, more arid climates and more infertile soils compared to other food legume crops. Its symbiotic nitrogen-fixing abilities help maintain soil fertility in peasant cropping systems. Approximately two-thirds of the worldwide cowpea crop is produced in Africa, with Nigeria producing more than 50% of the world's supply. Other important production areas in Africa are Niger, Ghana, Senegal and Cameroon. Significant production occurs in Brazil as well. The United States is the only developed country producing large amounts of cowpea. Yields in developing countries are only about 250–400 kg/hectare (223–357 lb/acre), principally because of insect infestations, but also because of diseases and low soil fertility. In the United States, average yields reach 2000 kg/hectare (1786 lb/acre) because of heavier use of inputs and these yields are comparable to yields of other food legumes. See also: Animal feeds; Bean; Legume; Legume forages; Nitrogen fixation; Protein
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