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By: Tim Motis, PhD
Published: 2016-10-18

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While doing legume intercropping research in South Africa (2010-2015), ECHO staff members learned about a system of cereal/cowpea production developed in Nigeria through research by IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture) and national partners (Ajeigbe et al. 2010a, Ajeigbe et al. 2010b). This strip cropping approach involves a repeating sequence of two rows of a cereal crop, such as sorghum or maize, and 4 rows of cowpea.

A survey of cropping systems, conducted from 1992-1993, showed that farmers in the northern Guinea Savanna zone of Nigeria were already intercropping cowpea with cereals (mostly sorghum and millet but some maize) (Henriet et al. 1997). Cowpea was relied upon as a source of food for both human and animal consumption, and as a means to maintain soil fertility. In these traditional systems, however, cowpea was only producing 0 to 132 kg/ha of grain (Van Elk et al. 1997). Noted yield constraints included wide cowpea spacing, lack of fertility inputs, and shading of cowpea by the cereal crops.