Scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, have recommended a new spacing procedure for cowpea cultivation which, if adopted, could give farmers huge harvests.
IITA’s Communication Specialist, Mrs Adaobi Umeokoro, disclosed this via a statement on Thursday in Ibadan.
The statement said that the new crop spacing technique was the outcome result of a study on the effects of plant density on cowpea performance in the Savannah areas of Nigeria.
It said that the study was conducted at the IITA Experimental Stations in Kano and Zaria during the 2013 and 2014 growing seasons.
“The study addressed the need to devise a viable alternative that would help limit the bottlenecks which farmers undergo in cultivating cowpea.
“It looked at the large disparity in farmers’ yield (0.3 Mg/ha) and yield obtainable on experimental plots (1.5 to 2.5 Mg/ha) and proposed simple agronomic practices that could help reverse the trend.
“By simply adjusting plant density, researchers found that grain yield significantly improved from 1.20 Mg/ha for a density of 133,333 plants per hectare to 2.16 Mg/ha for a density of 400,000 plants per hectare.
“Yield also increased by 68 per cent when planted at a density of 266,666 plants/ha and 79 per cent when planted at a density of 400,000 plants/ha,” it said.
The statement said that the findings could potentially benefit over 20 million people in West and Central Africa who depended on cowpea cultivation for their livelihood.
“The study explains that in addition to planting improved cowpea varieties, farmers must immediately change from using the current 75 by 20 cm spacing with two seeds planted per stand.
“They should change to double or triple rows on ridges spaced 75 cm apart to achieve corresponding densities of 266,666 and 400,000 plants per ha respectively.
“According to the study, these densities gave higher crop performance in terms of light interception, biomass production, yield and yield components.
“Since cowpea, like any other grain crop in northern Nigeria, is grown on ridges spaced 75 cm apart, the only option to increase plant density is to increase the number of rows planted per ridge from 1 to 2 or 3 rows,” it said.
Besides, the statement said that smallholder farmers could increase cowpea grain and fodder yields if they adopted a density of 266,666 plants or more per hectare in cowpea cultivation.
“The study was conducted by IITA’s Alpha Kamara, Abdullahi Tofa, Stephen Kyei-Boahen, Reuben Solomon, Nkeki Kamai, Hakeem Ajeigbe from the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT),” it added.