Scientific name: Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata
Common names: Cowpeas, Black-eye bean, Black-eye pea, Akkerbone
Varieties: Bets wit (creeping type) and Dr Saunders (upright type)
Seeding rate: 2.5 – 3 g/m² (25 – 30 kg/ha)
Growth cycle: Annual
Growth season: Warm season
Cowpea is an annual multipurpose tropical to subtropical legume known for its high nutritive value and palatability. Cowpea varieties have either a spreading, erect to semi-erect or tall and vine-like growth form, up to 4 m long. Leaves are trifoliate with the central leave symmetrical and ovate. The flowers are pink to purple. Mature pods vary in shape and colour (yellow, brown or purple). Seed varies largely in size, shape and colour (e.g. black-eyed, brown-eyed and speckled). It has a well-developed taproot system. Cowpea originates from Central Africa where it was cultivated since ancient times for human food. Cowpea is used for food, pasture, hay and silage. It is also used to improve soil fertility and is intercropped with cereal crops such as maize and sorghum. Africa is still the largest producer of cowpeas.