Intercropping Cowpea Can Increase Vegetable Yields

A report from the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program on research conducted at North Carolina A&T State University shows that planting cowpea alongside pollinator-dependent vegetable crops can significantly increase yields. “Cowpea can allow producers to grow two marketable crops in a field. At the same time, cowpea attracts more pollinators and fixes nitrogen in the soil. Cowpea is an overlooked crop for intercropping programs,” said principal investigator Beatrice Dingha. This project first tested 25 varieties of cowpea to find the best performers: Dixielee, Penny Riley, Whippoorwill Steel Black, Whippoorwill, and Pinkeye Purple Hull. Researchers then planted cowpeas with okra, squash, and watermelon and compared the yields to monocropped plots of the vegetables. The researchers saw a 50% increase in pollinators in the intercropped plots and a clear increase in vegetable yield, topped by a 54% increase in watermelon yield in the intercropped plot.