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What is Cowpea?

Cowpea, also known as black-eyed pea, is an annual legume that belongs to the family Fabaceae. It is a warm-season crop that grows in a variety of soil types and climates, making it an important crop in many parts of the world. The cowpea plant is a twining or trailing vine that can grow up to 2 meters long. It has compound leaves with three leaflets and produces flowers that are typically white, cream, or pale yellow.

Cowpea plays a vital role as a food and forage crop in numerous regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Its drought-resistant nature enables it to thrive in regions with minimal rainfall, making it an essential crop in areas with limited water resources. Besides being a food crop, cowpea is also utilized as a cover crop to enhance soil fertility and prevent soil erosion.

Cowpea serves as a significant protein source for numerous individuals worldwide, especially in areas where meat is scarce. Furthermore, this plant boasts a wealth of carbohydrates, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, potassium, and calcium. The leaves and pods of the cowpea can be consumed cooked or raw, and frequently appear in soups, stews, and salads. Moreover, cowpea flour is a prevalent ingredient used to prepare various dishes, such as bread, pancakes, and porridge.

Cowpea is an essential crop with diverse uses and advantages. Its capacity to thrive in various environments and its high nutritional value contribute significantly to food security and soil conservation initiatives worldwide.

Cowpea Production in the World

Nigeria is the top country producing cowpeas in the world. As of 2022, Nigeria produced 4,133,707 tonnes of cowpea, accounting for 42.29% of the total production. Niger is the world's second-largest cowpea producer, with 2,865,884 tonnes, which represents 29.32% of the total production. In terms of cowpea yield, Iraq is the most productive country on the planet with 56,852. Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Mali are the top three leading countries with '829,204', '319,960', '250,317', and '183,520' tonnes respectively. Palestine has the lowest production of Cowpea in the world with only 86 tonnes in 2022. The world's total production of dry cowpea was estimated at 9,774,865 tonnes in 2022.

Source: FAOSTAT

Top 10 Countries by Dry Cowpea Production in 2022

Top Countries by Production of Cowpea in 2022

Rank Country production(Tonnes) acreage(Hectare) Yield
1
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Nigeria
4,133,7074,776,6208,654
2
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Niger
2,865,8845,851,2144,898
3
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Burkina Faso
829,2041,718,5474,825
4
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Ghana
319,960192,45816,625
5
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Mali
250,317492,4185,083
6
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Sudan
183,520292,0756,283
7
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Cameroon
181,551222,0148,177
8
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Senegal
152,211293,8545,180
9
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The United Republic of Tanzania
148,832144,38910,308
10
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Kenya
131,118222,8985,882
11
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Myanmar
107,291117,7369,113
12
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Mozambique
82,819344,4272,405
13
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Democratic Republic of the Congo
81,938184,1674,449
14
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Yemen
81,22231,11726,102
15
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Malawi
49,942102,3214,881
16
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Haiti
29,93341,1617,272
17
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Madagascar
22,03623,5039,376
18
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Peru
18,73513,85213,526
19
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Serbia
15,8164,69033,726
20
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Sri Lanka
14,84414,33810,353
21
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China
14,78814,64110,100
22
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Uganda
13,26028,9944,573
23
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Zambia
8,13814,9705,437
24
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Mauritania
7,94022,5093,528
25
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North Macedonia
7,6282,08536,586
26
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Egypt
7,2721,93937,511
27
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United States of America
6,8493,88517,629
28
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South Africa
4,64710,6724,354
29
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Eswatini
7012,0103,489
30
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Guinea-Bissau
6454,2981,500
31
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Trinidad and Tobago
53416632,111
32
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Philippines
41823817,585
33
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Jamaica
36631911,473
34
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Iraq
3466156,852
35
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Bosnia and Herzegovina
21720010,860
36
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Guyana
1508717,250
37
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Palestine
862336,547

Cultivation of Cowpea

Cowpea is a warm-season crop that is relatively easy to cultivate. Here are some key points to keep in mind when growing cowpea:

  1. Soil preparation: To ensure optimal growth, cowpea thrives in soils with good drainage and pH levels between 6.0 and 7.5. Preparing the soil before planting is essential, and this involves removing debris, rocks, and weeds while adding organic matter such as compost or manure.
  2. Planting: After the last frost has passed and the soil has warmed up, cowpea seeds can be directly planted in the field. Plant the seeds about 1-2 inches deep and space them 3-6 inches apart in rows with a distance of 18-36 inches between them.
  3. Watering: Moderate watering, about 1 inch of water per week, is necessary for cowpea. It is critical to water the crop uniformly and abstain from overwatering, which can cause disease and decay.
  4. Fertilization: Though cowpea does not demand excessive fertilization, a little nitrogen can boost its growth and yield. It is recommended to apply a balanced fertilizer 10-10-10 before planting and again when the plant reaches a height of around 6-8 inches.
  5. Pest and disease control: Cowpeas are susceptible to numerous pests and diseases, such as aphids, spider mites, and root-knot nematodes. Regular crop monitoring is crucial, and prompt action must be taken upon detecting any pests or diseases. Such action may involve the use of organic or chemical pesticides or adopting crop rotation practices.
  6. Harvesting: Harvesting of cowpea usually takes place within 60-90 days after planting, with the pods being collected at a young and tender stage. Upon harvesting, the seeds must be separated from the pods and left to dry under sunlight before storage.

By following these basic guidelines, farmers can successfully cultivate cowpea and produce a nutritious and valuable crop.

Health Benefits of Cowpea

Cowpeas, also known as black-eyed peas, is a highly nutritious legume with several health benefits. Here are some of the main health benefits of consuming cowpea:

  1. Rich in protein: Cowpea is an excellent source of plant-based protein, which is important for building and repairing tissues in the body. A single cup of cooked cowpeas provides about 13 grams of protein.
  2. High in fiber: Cowpea is also high in fiber, which can promote digestive health and help regulate blood sugar levels. Fiber also helps to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  3. Contains vitamins and minerals: Cowpea is a rich source of various vital minerals and vitamins, including folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium. These nutrients are essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, producing red blood cells, and promoting overall well-being.
  4. May aid in weight loss: Cowpea is relatively low in calories and high in protein and fiber, which can help promote feelings of fullness and reduce overall calorie intake. This can help support weight loss goals.
  5. May help reduce the risk of chronic diseases: Cowpea is rich in antioxidants, which can help protect against cell damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

In addition to these health benefits, cowpea is also a versatile and delicious ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes, including stews, soups, salads, and side dishes. Overall, incorporating cowpea into a healthy and balanced diet can provide numerous health benefits and support overall wellness.

Nutritional Information of Cowpea

Here is the approximate nutritional composition of cowpeas per 100 grams of edible portion:

  • Calories: 336
  • Protein: 23.52 grams
  • Fat: 1.15 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 60.03 grams
  • Fiber: 10.6 grams
  • Sugar: 5.9 grams
  • Calcium: 106 mg
  • Iron: 5.02 mg
  • Magnesium: 189 mg
  • Phosphorus: 367 mg
  • Potassium: 715 mg
  • Sodium: 6 mg
  • Zinc: 2.71 mg
  • Copper: 0.847 mg
  • Manganese: 1.33 mg
  • Selenium: 2.8 mcg
  • Vitamin C: 4.1 mg
  • Thiamin: 0.443 mg
  • Riboflavin: 0.15 mg
  • Niacin: 1.79 mg
  • Vitamin B6: 0.279 mg
  • Folate: 400 mcg

Note that the exact nutrient content of cowpeas may vary depending on factors such as the variety of cowpea, how it was grown and prepared, and other environmental factors. However, cowpeas are generally considered to be a highly nutritious food that is rich in protein, fiber, and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.

Structure of Cowpea

Cowpeas, also known as black-eyed peas, are a type of legume that is commonly grown and consumed in many parts of the world. Here are some key points about the structure of cowpea:

  1. Leaves: Cowpea plants have compound leaves that are made up of three leaflets. The leaves are green and oval-shaped, with a slightly serrated edge.
  2. Flowers: Cowpea plants produce small, white, or light purple flowers that are clustered together in long, slender spikes. Each flower has five petals and a distinctive dark spot at the base.
  3. Pods: After the flowers are pollinated, they develop into long, slender pods that contain several seeds. The pods are green and slightly curved, with a pointed tip and a slightly ridged surface.
  4. Seeds: The seeds of cowpea are small and oval-shaped, with a distinctive black spot on one end that gives them their name. The seeds can be various shades of brown, white, or black, depending on the variety.
  5. Roots: Cowpea plants have a fibrous root system that helps to anchor the plant in the soil and absorb nutrients and water.
  6. Growth habit: Cowpea is a warm-season crop that typically grows to a height of 2-3 feet. It is an annual plant, meaning that it completes its life cycle within one growing season.

Overall, the structure of the cowpea is typical of many legume plants, with compound leaves, small flowers, and pods containing multiple seeds. Cowpea is a valuable crop for its nutritious seeds, which can be used in a variety of dishes and provides important health benefits.

Types of Cowpea

There are several types of cowpea, which are differentiated based on their physical characteristics, flavor, and culinary uses. Here are some of the most common types of cowpea:

  1. Black-eyed pea: This is perhaps the most well-known type of cowpea, characterized by its distinctive black spot on one end of the seed. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and is often used in stews, soups, and salads.
  2. Cream pea: This type of cowpea has a creamy, pale-colored seed that is similar in size and shape to the black-eyed pea. It has a slightly milder flavor than the black-eyed pea and is often used in Southern-style dishes such as hoppin' John.
  3. Crowder pea: The seeds of the crowder pea are larger than those of other cowpea varieties and are packed tightly together in the pod. They have a slightly nutty flavor and are often used in stews, casseroles, and other hearty dishes.
  4. Southern pea: This is a broad category of cowpea varieties that includes many different types, such as the black crowder, pink eye, and zipper cream. Southern peas are generally known for their creamy texture and mild flavor and are often used in dishes such as succotash and gumbo.
  5. Yardlong bean: Also known as asparagus bean or snake bean, this is a type of cowpea with long, slender pods that can reach up to 3 feet in length. The pods are typically used in stir-fries and other Asian-style dishes.

Overall, cowpea is a versatile and nutritious crop that comes in many different varieties, each with its own unique characteristics and culinary uses.

Uses of Cowpea

Cowpea is a versatile crop that can be used in various ways. Here are some of the most common uses of cowpea:

  1. Food: Cowpea is primarily used as a source of food, particularly in regions where meat is scarce or unaffordable. The seeds can be eaten fresh or dried and are a staple in many dishes like stews, soups, and curries. It is a good source of protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients.
  2. Animal feed: Cowpea is also used as animal feed, particularly for cattle, pigs, and poultry. The seeds are high in protein and other essential nutrients, making them an ideal supplement for animal diets.
  3. Cover crop and green manure: Cowpea is frequently used as a cover crop or green manure, particularly in areas where soil fertility is low. The plant's deep roots help improve soil structure and decrease erosion, while the above-ground parts can be plowed back into the soil to add organic matter.
  4. Traditional medicine: Cowpea has a long history of use in traditional medicine, particularly in Africa and Asia. The plant and its seeds are believed to possess various medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and anti-cancer effects.
  5. Industrial applications: Cowpea is sometimes used in industrial applications, such as the production of biofuels and bioplastics. The seeds contain high levels of oil, which can be extracted and utilized as a feedstock for producing biodiesel.

Overall, cowpea is an essential crop that serves various purposes, from providing a source of food and animal feed to improving soil health and supporting traditional medicine practices.