Characterization of cowpea to harvest rainwater for wheat in semiarid conditions
Aim of study: A field experiment was executed, under rainfed conditions from 2014-15 to 2017-18, to study the role of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L.) in rainwater harvesting to enhance the wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) yield.
Area of study: Rain-fed area of Pothwar region, Punjab, Pakistan.
Material and methods: We designed three treatments (T1: control; T2: cowpea grown after conventional tillage and incorporated into soil to act as “green manure”; and T3: grown without any tillage practice, cut with sickle and spread as “mulch”). The effect of these treatments on soil moisture conservation was studied against conventional farmer’s practice, wherein no host crop is grown before wheat sowing.
Main results: Available soil water remained highest in T2 during first three years when sufficient rainfall was received contrary to fourth year with low rainfall. The results revealed that cowpea biomass of 15.2 t/ha and 13.72 t/ha, from T2 and T3 respectively, were produced during 2015 corresponding to 213 mm rainfall. Whereas, these quantities increased to 25.69 t/ha and 24.29 t/ha during 2017 with 387 mm of rainfall. The study revealed that net income from wheat crop under T2 was Rs 13000 and Rs 9000 per hectare higher than that of control during the first two years respectively. Contrarily, net income from T2 was found negative and benefit-cost ratio reduced to 0.79 when very low rainfall was received during the last year.
Research highlights: Use of cowpea as green manure gave maximum net return if sufficient rainfall is received during decomposition of cowpea and hence recommended for in-situ rainwater harvesting.
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