Plantwise Factsheets for Farmers
Cropping cowpeas with maize to improve soils
Recognize the problem
deficiency in the soil is a huge problem for most small scale farmers. A
common symptom of nitrogen deficiency in maize is the yellowing
of the lower leaves of plants across the field. Such yellowing starts at the
tips and moves along the middle of the leaf. Many plant diseases can cause
yellowing, but these usually start from the middle of the leaf and along the
veins (streaks) or appear as scattered spots.
counter the deficiencies in the soils, farmers have resorted to the use of
chemical fertilizers which are expensive. Intercropping with cowpea is a more
favourable practice with maize and other cereals. Cowpeas naturally take
nitrogen from the air and deposit it into the soil. The nitrogen can then be
taken up by roots of the maize plant or other crops. This eliminates the need to
use chemical top dressing fertilizer. This practice is particularly suitable
for climbing varieties of cowpea which can withstand intercropping and
shading better than more erect varieties. It is important to note that during
the first season of intercropping, the maize may not benefit much from the
deposited nitrogen, but will do so in the second and third seasons.
spacing when intercropping maize from 75 cm x 30 cm to about 100 cm x 50 cm
cowpea varieties, such as Bubebe and Lutembwe are recommended for
intercropping. They can be obtained from Zambia Agricultural Research
Institute or local seed companies. Both varieties perform well in most parts
of the country.
maize and cowpeas are planted at the same time
between the maize rows, plant two stations of cowpea (25 cm apart from maize
plant and 10-15 cm apart from each other)
soils are very poor, 200-250 kg/ha of D compound fertilizer can be applied
at the time of planting maize. The cowpeas also benefit from fertilizer
intended for the maize when intercropped with maize.
- Top dressing with nitrogen
fertilizers is not recommended because cowpeas, like most legumes, make enough
of their own nitrogen
The recommendations in this factsheet are relevant to:
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