Regeneration guidelines for cowpea

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The information on this page was extracted from:
Dumet D., Adeleke R. and Faloye B. 2008. Regeneration guidelines: cowpea. In: Dulloo M.E., Thormann I., Jorge M.A. and Hanson J., editors. Crop specific regeneration guidelines [CD-ROM]. CGIAR System-wide Genetic Resource Programme, Rome, Italy. 8 pp.

Before reading the regeneration details for this crop, read the general introduction that gives general guidelines to follow by clicking here.


Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.) is cultivated around the world primarily as a pulse but also as a vegetable (for its leaves as well as the green peas), as a cover crop and for fodder. It has many common names including blackeyed pea, crowder pea, southern pea, lubia, niebe, coupe and frijole. It belongs to the family Fabaceae and its cultivated species V. unguiculata (syn. V. sinensis (L.) Savi ex Hassk., V. sesquipedalis (L.) Fruwirth) include 11 sub species and a large number of related species, many of them grown as minor legumes or forage crops. Amongst these are V. subterranea (L.) Verdc., V. radiata (L.) R. Wilczek, V. angularis (Willd.) Ohwi & H. Ohashi and V. umbellata (Thunb.) Ohwi & H. Ohashi.
Cowpea is an annual herbaceous plant with a large tap root and alternate trifoliate leaves with ovate leaflets. It shows considerable diversity in growth habit, flower and seed coat colour. The standard flowers vary in colour from white, cream and yellow to purple and the seeds, which are smooth or wrinkled, range from white, cream or yellow to red, brown or black and are characterized by a marked hilum surrounded by a dark aril.
Cowpea is regenerated by seeds and is largely self pollinating but up to 2% outcrossing has been reported (Ng and Hughes 1998; Fatokun and Ng 2007).

Cowpea at flowering. (photo: Jean Hanson/ILRI)

Choice of environment and planting season

Climatic conditions

Planting season

Preparation for regeneration

When to regenerate


Field selection and preparation

Method of regeneration

Spacing at planting. (photo: Jean Hanson/ILRI)


Planting layout, density and distance (see photo)

Sowing method

Isolation method

Pollination cages for geneflow control. (photo: IITA genebank)


Crop management

Weed management



Common pests and diseases

Contact plant health experts to identify the symptoms of the likely pests and diseases and the appropriate control measures. The following eight insect-transmitted viruses are reported to be seed-borne in cowpea (Ng and Hughes 1998):

Major pests attacking cowpea are flower thrips (Megalurothrips sjostedti), legume pod borer (Maruca vitrata) and a number of pod sucking insects.

Pest and disease control


Mature pods, ready for harvesting. (photo: Jean Hanson/ILRI)


Post-harvest management

Seed processing

Monitoring accession identity

Keep an original seed sample in a small plastic bag in a dry environment at 15°C. Whenever the accession is regenerated, you can match the newly harvested seed to the seed sample. Confirm the regenerated seed accessions by comparing them with the following traits in the original characterization data:

Documentation of information during regeneration

The following information should be collected during regeneration:

References and further reading

Bioversity International, NBPGR, IITA. 2010. Key access and utilization descriptors for cowpea genetic resources. Bioversity International, Rome, Italy; National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, India; International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria. Available here.

Davis DW, Oelke EA, Oplinger ES, Doll JD, Hanson CV, Putnam DH. 1992. Cowpea. Alternative field crop manual. University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota. Available from: Date accessed: 12 March 2008.

Fatokun CA, Ng Q. 2007. Outcrossing in cowpea. Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment 5:334–338.

Ng NQ, Hughes Jd’A. 1998. Theoretical and practical considerations in the regeneration of cowpea germplasm at IITA. In: Engels JMM and Ramanatha RR, editors. Regeneration of seed crops and their wild relatives. Proceedings of a consultation meeting, 4–7 December 1995, ICRISAT, Hyderabad, India. IPGRI, Rome, Italy. pp 76–80. Available here.

Vencovsky R, Crossa J. 1999. Variance effective population size under mixed self and random mating with applications to genetic conservation of species. Crop Science 39:1282–1294.


These guidelines have been peer reviewed by Jean Hanson, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Ethiopia, and Remy Pasquet, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE/IRD), Kenya.

The Genebanks

The 11 CGIAR genebanks currently conserve 730,000 of cereals and grain legumes, forage crops, tree species, root and tuber crops, bananas and crop wild relatives.