Vigna unguiculata

Full NameVigna unguiculata
Common Namecowpea; niebe, blackeye, blackeyed pea
Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.), native to Africa and a member of the Fabaceae family, is a primary source of protein in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is grown for fresh and dry grains, foliage, and forage. Cowpea is important also in parts of Asia, South America and the USA. Because of its adaptability to harsh conditions, cowpea is a successful crop in arid and semiarid regions where few other crops perform well. Cowpea is important to the nutrition and income of smallholder farmers in Africa, while also contributing to sustainability of the cropping system through fixation of atmospheric nitrogen and prevention of soil erosion. Despite its relevance to agriculture in the developing world and its stress resilience, actual yields of cowpea are much lower than the known yield potential. Cowpea is a diploid with a chromosome number 2n = 22 and an estimated genome size of 620 Mb. Its genome shares a high degree of collinearity with other warm season legumes, especially common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). Diverse cowpea germplasm is available from collections in Africa (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture [IITA], Nigeria), the USDA repository in Griffin, GA (USA), the University of California, Riverside, CA (USA), and India (National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources [NBPGR] in New Delhi). These collections contain diversity relevant to pests, pathogens, plant architecture, seed characteristics and adaptation to marginal environments. This diversity can be more fully utilized by increasing the depth of knowledge of cowpea genetics and building that knowledge into the decision process for germplasm management and strategies to breed improved varieties. Photo: Jeffrey Ehlers.
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