Volume 25 Number 4,
OCTOBER 1, 1915
W. A. McRAE
COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE
COWPEAS FOR HAY AND FOR SOIL
Entered January 31, 1903, at Tallahassee, Florida, as second-class
matter under Act of Congress of June, 1900.
"Acceptance for mailing at special rate of postage provided for
in Section 1103, Act of October 3, 1917, authorized Sept. 11, 1918."
THESE BULLETINS ARE ISSUED FREE TO THOSE REQUESTING THEM
T. J. APPLEYARD, STATE PRINTER
COWPEAS FOR HAY AND FOR SOIL
BY C. K. MCQUARRIE
Assistant Superintendent Farmers' Institutes, Gaines-
ville, Fla., .larcl 27, 1912.
Our system of agriculture in this State (and in the
South generally) has paid too little attention to growing
legume crops as soil improvers. The farmer has thus
been compelled to make large outlays for commercial
fertilizers, which really never build the soil to the point
of increased crop yields annually. We have been neglect-
ing one of the most important methods of soil building
known to agriculture. One of the best of the legume
family for this purpose is the cowpea, and it is safe to
say that no one crop known can add more to our agricul-
tural wealth. Hay of the best quality can be made from
it, and nearly four times as high in digestible protein as
timothy hay. Its power to collect the free nitrogen of
the air and store it in the form of nodules on the roots,
thus increasing soil fertility, enables the farmer to grow
succeeding crops without expensive nitrogenous fer-
To inake the best of the cowpea crop there are tw)
distinct periods in which it should be planted to enable
the farmer to get hay of good quality. The first planting
should be done as early in spring as possible so as to have
the crop cut and cured for hay before the rainy season
occurs. The other planting should be done in July, (or
early in August) so as to have the crop come off in the
fall when dry weather prevails.
VARIETIES TO PLANT.
On land where a winter crop that depletes the soil has
been grown, such as cabbage, rape, or any of the small
grains, a good plan for soil recuperation is to grow a
legume crop immediately thereafter. The cowpea fits in
there just right, and by making the crop into hay, tLe
land will be in good condition to bear a profitable fall
crop of some kind suitable to the soil and system of farm
management. The variety of seed to be used should be
carefully considered, for while there are upwards of fifty
distinct types of the cowpea, there are very few that are
suitable for early planting. Another point for considera-
tion is the immunity of the variety we use to root-knot
and wilt. On land where the root-knot is known to pre-
vail, cowpeas of any variety are subject to it, and in that
case we had better use the velvet or Lyon beans for a
legume crop. There are two varieties of cowpeas that are
known to be more resistant to root-knot than others, the
Iron and Brabham, and they are desirable types for hay-
PREPARING FOR COWPEAS.
The land for cowpeas should be well prepared by
thorough plowing and pulverization of the soil. The sue
cess of any crop depends a good deal on the seed-bed pre-
pared for it. An application of about 400 pounds per
acre of acid phosphate should be broadcasted and har.
rowed in before planting the seed. On soil that is in a
good mechanical condition it will be advisable to sow the
seed "broadcast," using about seven pecks to the acre and
using a drill for the purpose. If no drill is available, the
seed can be sown by hand and worked into the soil with a
cultivator, smoothing the surface with a harrow or weeder.
On thin soil it is advisable to sow in drills about thirty
inches apart and cultivate the growing crop several
times. In that case about five pecks of seed per acre will
Some of our farmers get excellent results from cowpea
mixtures; that is, sowing other seeds with the cowpeas.
This practice is generally recommended for the purpose
of easier curing of the hay, as the mixture being of differ-
ent texture cures more readily than if of one kind. A mix-
ture that is very popular is sorghum and cowpeas. The
Early Amber sorghum is the best, as its growing period
come near that of the cowpeas. If both are sown at the
same time, five pecks of cowpeas and two pecks of sor-
ghum broadcasted or drilled in is sufficient for an acre.
Cowpeas and German millet are another good combina-
tion, for the period of growth of the millet and the earlier
varieties of cowpeas correspond sufficiently to make the
product desirable, and the millet aids considerably in
curing the hay. Cowpeas and soy beans are also a good
combination, using the larger varieties of the soy bean.
such as the Mammoth Yellow, and the slower growing
varieties of cowpeas, such as the Clay and the Whip-
On some of the older fields of the State in the northern
and western portion, Johnson grass has become more or
less a pest. In fields where it abounds, cowpeas can be
disked on the land at the rate of six to seven pecks per
acre. The disking of the Johnson grass roots tends to a
better stand of grass, and the peas mixed with it makes
excellent hay. If the seed is planted in early April, the
hay can be cut in about sixty to seventy days, and will be
one of the best hays it is possible to get. This method of
treating Johnson grass lands solves a difficult problem,
as you cannot grow a cultivated crop successfully where
CURING THE CROP.
To get the best quality of hay the cowpea crop must
not be allowed to get too ripe. At the blooming stage all
the nutriment is in the plant, when it starts to make the
seed to perpetuate its kind. The best time to cut cow-
peas for hay is when the first pods are in the snap stage.
As this hay requires careful handling, it should not be cut
when wet with either rain or dew. Cut in the forenoon.
and as soon as wilted rake it into windows and put it in
small cocks the same afternoon. Hay-cock covers are use-
ful if unfavorable weather prevails, and they will then
repay their cost several times over. They can be made
from seventy-two-inch muslin, cut into squares, soaked in
raw linseed oil, and wrung dry. They should' have string
loops on the corners, so as to fasten them to the cocks by
wooden pins. Very thin muslin is best, for if thick mus-
lin is used it causes the hay to sweat, and is no more
effective in shedding rain.
Next day open up these cocks in a loose manner, expos-
ing the hay to the sun as little as possible, or the shed-
ding of the leaves is apt to occur. Test the hay by twist-
ing a bunch in the hand. If no moisture shows, haul it to
the barn. It will undergo a sweating process there, but
that will only make it the more palatable, and better
cured. It will overcome the sweat all right, if left alone,
and when it cools off will make a superior grade of hay.
The feeding value of cowpea hay and of its mixtures
has long been recognized as of a high order, the hay being
equal in protein content to the best bran, and high in
carbohydrates. In dairy feeding, well-cured cowpea hay,
cut at the right stage, is equal pound for pound to the
ordinary bran used for feeding.