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Short-duration, leguminous fodder crop

By Our Agriculture Correspondent

The improved fodder cowpea is ideally suited for mixed cropping with sorghum or maize.

A HIGH-YIELDING fodder cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), which can be raised both as irrigated and rain fed crop, has been developed by scientists at the Department of Forage Crops, Centre for Plant Breeding and Genetics, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore.

The university recently released it for commercial cultivation by farmers.

Named `Fodder cowpea-CO (FC) 8', the improved variety has high green fodder yield with high leaf-stem ratio.

It is resistant to yellow mosaic virus and root rot, and moderately resistant to leaf hoppers, beetles and bacterial leaf blight.

It is suitable for intercropping with sorghum and maize. This leguminous green fodder has high protein (20.67 per cent), fat (2.72 per cent), calcium (1.49 per cent) and phosphorous (1.37 per cent), and high palatability, according to the scientists, who developed this variety.

A hybrid derivative of the cross between CO 5 and N 331, the improved fodder cowpea is semi-spreading, erect in early stages of growth and later on creeping.

It is of indeterminate plant type with luxuriant growth. It has recorded an average yield of 17 tonnes of green fodder per hectare in irrigated fields, and 12.5 tonnes per hectare under rain fed conditions.

Its green fodder yield has been found to be superior to that of CO 5, the check variety. It can be grown all over Tamil Nadu excepting Villupuram, Cuddalore, Tiruvarur and Kancheepuram districts.

As irrigated crop, it can be raised throughout the year, and the rain fed crop is cultivated in kharif and rabi seasons.

The plant grows to a height of 100 to 120 cm, and as green fodder the crop can be harvested in 60 to 70 days when fifty per cent flowering is recorded.

When allowed to set seeds, the crop matures in 100 to 105 days. As green fodder, the quality of cowpea forage is high and quite comparable to that of Lucerne. A mixed fodder of cowpea with sorghum or maize is consumed by cattle with great relish without any left overs.

For growing this high yielding fodder cowpea, the field should be thoroughly prepared, and raised beds of convenient size should be formed. Liberal quantities (about 25 tonnes) of farmyard manure should be incorporated at the time of last ploughing.

A basal dressing of 25 kg of nitrogen, 40 kg of phosphorous and 20 kg of potash is prescribed for raising a healthy fodder crop. A seed rate of 20 to 25 kg is recommended to cover a hectare. The seeds should be treated with suitable Rhizobium species. A spacing of 30 cm by 10 cm is to be adopted to get a uniform stand of the crop.

The variety can be raised using organic amendments and nutrients. Spraying the crop with cow's urine, vermi-wash and other bioactive compounds at regular intervals will not only promote vegetative growth, but also protect it from pests and diseases.

Organically raised fodder is excellent for feeding cattle. The leguminous crop is ideal for integrated intensive farming system, and for efficient soil nutrient management, according to crop experts.

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