Enhancing System Sustainability by Mitigating the Impact of Three Major Constraints to Efficient Cowpea Production and Use: Pests, Pollination and Nodulation

Project Overview

LS17-279
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2017: $210,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2021
Grant Recipient: North Carolina A&T University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Beatrice Dingha
North Carolina A&T State University

Information Products

Commodities

  • Agronomic: peas (field, cowpeas)
  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: cucurbits, okra, peas (culinary)
  • Animals: bees

Practices

  • Crop Production: cover crops, cropping systems, intercropping, pollination, pollinator habitat, pollinator health, relay cropping, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems

    Abstract:

    Cowpea, Vigna unguiculata Walp., is an important source of protein and vitamins that is widely grown in the Southern U.S primarily for fresh market consumption and freezing. Cowpea is very attractive to honey bees and other bee species and this has in part been attributed to its nectariferous nature. Bees are an important component of productivity and sustainable agroecosystem. Currently, bee populations are in decline ostensibly due to loss in habitats (which results in reduction in floral resources and nesting sites) as well as the use of pesticides especially neonicotinoids. One of the project objectives is to identify cowpea cultivars with resistance to pests and diseases, high pollinator activity and good nodulation efficiency. From our results the most common pollinators recorded on cowpeas were honey bees, carpenter and bumble bees. During the five-week sampling period, 57% of the pollinators recorded were honey bees followed by bumble bees (30%). Bee populations varied among the different cowpea varieties and over time. Dixielee, Penny Riley, Whippoorwill Steel Black, Whippoorwill and CT Pink eye Purple Hull were the most attractive cowpea varieties to pollinators. Iron and Clay, Tohono O’odham and Red Bisbee recorded the least number of pollinators. Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) populations were highest in Dixielee, Penny Riley, Whippoorwill Steel Black, Whippoorwill, Mayo Colima and CT Pink eye Purple Hull the same varieties attracted to pollinators.  Carrapichio, California Blackeye #5, Cream 40, Iron and Caly, Lady, Purple hull Bigboy, running Conch, and Tohono O’odham recorded the least BMSB. The second objective was to determine if intercropped cowpea increased crop yield of okra, squash and watermelon. More pollinators were observed on both the cowpea and the intercropped main crops compared to the control (main crops without cowpea). Overall, intercropping cowpea resulted in increased crop yield compared to the control with no cowpea intercropped. We also observed that for this strategy to be successful, there must be synchrony in the flowering phase of both the main crop and cowpea intercrop. 

     

    Project objectives:

    The overall goal of the proposed study is to increase crop production and sustainability through intercropping cowpea cultivars that are highly attractive to pollinators while at the same time resistant to insect pests and diseases in a vegetable cropping system. These cultivars would also increase soil health by their ability to nodulate with the existing rhizobia. The project goal will be met by the following three objectives that systematically address the problem the project seeks to solve.

    Objective 1. Identify cowpea cultivars with resistance to pests and diseases (including nematodes), high pollinator activity and good nodulation efficiency.

    Objective 2. Evaluate the effect of two best cowpea cultivars with pest and disease resistance, high nodulation and high pollinator attractiveness (from objective #1) on overall yield of vegetable crops in two cropping systems with/without cowpea (mono and intercropping).

    Objective 3. Assess system profitability from Best Production Practices (BPPs) used in objective #2 by growers through collaborative farmer-managed on-farm demonstration.

     

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.