PMES BUZLETIN No. 91.
Florida Agricullural Experiment Slallon.
BY JOHN M. SCOTT.
The cowpea is a forage crop that is well adapted to Florida conditions.
It deserves to receive more attention from farmers and stock raisers than it
has in the past. It is an easy crop to grow, and requires little attention ex-
cept at harvest time. The small area devoted to cowpeas is due in part to
the high price of the seed, owing mainly to the expense of harvesting the
crop. As a rule the pods are picked by hand, and threshed with a flail. This
method, however, is being replaced by the use of improved machinery, which
materially reduces the cost of harvesting and threshing.
The high feeding value of cowpea hay is due to the large percentage (10.8)
of digestible protein (muscle and bone-producing material) which the well-
cured hay contains. Pound for pound cowpea hay is nearly equal to wheat
bran for milk and meat production. Comparing cowpea hay with crabgrass
hay we find that one pound of cowpea hay is nearly equal to five pounds of
crabgrass hay, as a bone and muscle producer. Cowpea hay costs very little
more than crabgrass hay, the difference being in the cost of the seed and the
labor of planting. Comparing the feeding value of cowpea hay with cotton-
seed meal, we find that about 3.5 pounds of this hay are equal to one pound of
VALUE AS A SOIL IMPROVER.
While the area planted in cowpeas has much increased during the past
few years, this crop has not yet attained the popularity that it deserves.
Aside from its feeding value, its value as a fertilizer or soil renovator is of no
small importance. The cowpea belongs to the plants known as legumes,
which have the power to extract nitrogen from the atmosphere and may de-
posit it in the soil. In this way they build up and improve the soil upon
which they grow (See Press Bulletin 81). It has been estimated that a good
crop of cowpeas plowed under as fertilizer adds as much ammonia to the soil
as an application of 1,000 to 1,200 pounds of cottonseed meal per acre; or, if
the vines are harvested as hay, and only the stubble and roots left as fertil-
izer, they will add an amount of ammonia equal to an application of 300 to
400 pounds of cottonseed meal per acre. Nearly one-third of the ammonia of
the entire crop is found in the stubble and roots; the parts which are left in
te field when the hay is harvested.
May 9, 1908.
The cowpea needs much hot weather to mature well, and, hence, should
be planted during the spring or early summer. Very little will be gained by
early planting, that is, planting before May 1, unless the peas are wanted for
table use. Seed sown in May will give a larger yield of forage, but fewer
pods than seed sown in the latter part of June or early in July. That is,
early planting tends toward a heavy growth of vines and a small amount of
seed, while later planting secures a heavy yield of seed with a smaller per-
centage of vines. Good results are often obtained by sowing the cowpeas
along with some other spring or summer crop; such as sorghum, or millet.
This improves the quality of such hay by supplying the protein (muscle and
tissue-producing material) in which the hay would otherwise be deficient.
When mixed with some other crop the hay can be more easily cured, since the
sorghum or millet prevents the pea-vines from matting together closely.
The seed may be sown in drills two or three feet apart, or broadcast. If
sown in drills, cultivation can be practiced which will usually increase the
yield. Before the sowing the ground should be thoroughly plowed and well
harrowed, so as to get the seed-bed in as good tilth as possible. The amount
of seed required per acre varies from three pecks to a bushel and a half, de-
pending upon the variety and the method of seeding. If sown broadcast
more seed will be required than if sown in.drills.
Practically all varieties of cowpeas are subject to root-knot, which is one
serious drawback to the growing of cowpeas in the cotton belt of the state.
Fortunately the Iron cowpea has proved itself strongly resistant to root-knot
and should be used when this crop is to be followed by cotton.
State papers please copy.