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Advances in cowpea cropping systems research
Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) [L.] Walp.) is a major component of the traditional cropping systems in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America where it is widely grown in mixtures with other crops in various combinations. The productivity of cowpea in these mixtures is low, mainly due to low plant population, competition under intercropping, and lack of crop protection measures. Studies have shown that the productivity of cowpea in these systems could be enhanced through the use of improved varieties, appropriate date of planting with respect to the cereal, higher plant populations, improved soil fertility, and suitable spatial arrangements. This paper highlights recent research leading to improvements in cowpea cropping systems. These include improved productivity as a result of early cowpea planting, strip cropping, dense planting, and appropriate soil fertility management. For example, in West Africa, the use of high yielding improved varieties in a strip cropping system with two cereal rows : four cowpea rows offers an opportunity for selective input application and appears to be economically superior to the traditional one cereal row: one cowepea row.