Agricultural Varieties of the Cowpea and Immediately Related Species



Source of Digital Item

National Agricultural Library


The cowpea is now the most important legume grown in the cotton States. At the present time about 15 varieties of this crop are in common cultivation in these States. The varieties grown in a small way number perhaps twice as many more. Owing to the fact that the seed is still largely hand picked, the tendency is for whatever variety was first introduced in a locality to persist. The increased commercial handling of cowpea seed in recent years has to a considerable extent changed this condition of affairs, but varieties of relative inferiority are still too largely grown.

In investigating the varieties of cowpeas the effort has been made, with the assistance of the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction, to obtain as many as possible of the existent varieties from all parts of the world, so that a comprehensive idea of them could be obtained with the end in view of determining which are most valuable. In this collection are also included many varieties of the closely related species, the asparagus bean and the catjang. While it is very certain that the list of varieties that have been brought together for comparison and study is far from exhaustive, yet it is believed that the series is sufficiently complete to exhibit all of the characteristics which occur in this group of plants that are likely to be of value either directly or to the plant breeder.

On account of the importance of the cowpea various extensive investigations of the crop have been undertaken by this Bureau. The present bulletin presents the results obtained by a comprehensive study of the varieties, not only of those already occurring in this country, but of numerous lots from abroad obtained mainly by the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction. Largely on the basis of facts ascertained in these studies a great amount of breeding work is being conducted by Mr. George W. Oliver, with the idea of developing improved varieties by combining the best of the traits exhibited. In close connection with this work Prof. W. J. Spillman is studying the Mendelian behavior of the hereditary characters. The work of Mr. W. A. Orton in hybridizing Iron and other cowpeas to develop varieties with high yield of forage and seed, together with resistance to wilt and other diseases, is also closely allied with these investigations.


Agricultural Varieties of the Cowpea and Immediately Related Species