Cowpea is another underutilized and under researched crop in South Africa and is grown mainly by subsistence farmers for its leaves and seeds for human consumption. Cowpea is widely distributed in regions of tropical and temperate climates, thus differing morphologically (shape, size, colour of seed coat) and in proximate composition, hence effecting physicochemical characteristics. Characterization, evaluation and selection of cowpea germplasm accessions is a pre-requisite in any plant breeding programme. A pre-breeding programme of cowpea is actively progressing which aims to lead to a full-scale crop improvement programme in the ARC. Cowpea is tolerant to climate change such as poor quality soils and drought, and suitable for low-input agricultural production systems. Cowpea is a legume crop tolerant to drought and fixes nitrogen, which helps in improving the fertility of the soil and in the replenishment of soil nutrients, makes it suitable in intercropping systems with cereals and other root crops, and the leaves are also rich in mineral elements and protein content and it is also a source of animal feed. It increases the population of important soil microorganisms that help to improve soil health. This crop plays an important role in sustainable food security and alleviation of malnutrition in the country. Cowpea is used as a leafy and fruit vegetable, as well as a grain crop in food systems and is rich in carbohydrates, protein, minerals and vitamins. Information on the genetic variability among the existing cowpea genotypes will increase the efficiency of the improvement program. It is important to genetically evaluate and select superior parental lines that have high yield potential and nutritional composition for small-scale farmers, as well as to develop new cowpea cultivars for the communities. In South Africa, it is especially popular among farmers with limited resources.

Cowpea plants and pods:

>>> Back to Indigenous/Traditional
African Leafy Vegetables