Nutritive Value: Cowpea is an annual vegetable with a weak trailing stem. It is delicious in taste and rich in proteins. It contains 84 percent water, 8 percent carbohydrates, 4.3 percent proteins, 2 percent dietary fibers, 0.9 percent minerals including calcium, phosphorus and iron, and is rich in vitamins A, B and C.
Soil and Climate: Cowpea requires light to medium but fertile soil with a good drainage capacity. Cowpea is a warm season vegetable crop. The crop cannot flower below 20°C and hence cannot be grown under severe cold climatic conditions.
Important Varieties: Pusa Phalguni, Pusa Barsati, Pusa Dophasli and Arka Suman are popular varieties of cowpea. Pusa Phalguni is a bushy dwarf variety best suited to grow in the winter season while Pusa Barsati is an early maturing variety grown in the rainy season. Pusa Dophasli variety can be grown in the rainy as well as the winter season.
Planting and Irrigation: Cowpea can be grown in bot rainy and summer seasons. For the rainy season, seeds should be sown in June-July and for summer vegetable seeds should be sown in February-March. Seeds are sown 30 cm apart from two rows with a distance of 10 cm between two plants. Cowpea is a shallow rooted vegetable, if grown in light soil; frequent irrigation should be given to maintain adequate soil moisture in the soil.
Plant Protection: Aphids and pod borer are the major insect pests attacking cowpea. Spraying of neem cake extract and handpicking of green caterpillar, pod borer can greatly help reduce the losses from these insect pests. Powdery mildew is an important fungus disease of cowpea that can be controlled by treating seed with trichoderma biofungicide powder before sowing seeds. If powdery mildew occurs on the standing crop it can be controlled by dusting sulphur powder on the vegetable.
Harvesting: Tender green pods are harvested by handpicking of vegetables 40 to 50 days after sowing. Several hand pickings will be available for the following one month. Unharvested pods can mature and give seeds that can be used as a vegetable year-round.