Should You Opt for the Legume? Adding Cowpeas to Forage Sorghum

Cowpeas are a viney summer annual legume that can climb, tolerate some shade, and fill in the spaces in a summer annual grass, so should you consider adding them to a stand of forage sorghum? The answer (as usual) contains many variables, with both pros and cons to weigh. Space is at stake and plants naturally expand to fill up the available space, but just as important is the competition for nutrients and water. Depending on seeding rate, space can be less of an issue because of the climbing nature of the cowpeas. They use the sorghum stalks to climb to sunlight, a tendency that is enhanced by their general shade tolerance and ability to wait it out, flourishing in the canopy until they are able to reach the light. According to Progressive Forage Grower, “Intercropping is a system of growing two diverse species of crops on a piece of land at the same time with the assumption that they improve the efficiency of using both above-ground and below-ground resources compared to growing them separately. As a result, often the total productivity of an intercropping system is more than growing any of the component crops alone.” Strictly in terms of biodiversity, this is true. A mix of crops does produce a synergy effect, where the interaction of components improves the end result. It is also better insurance for the season, since environmental conditions that harm one of the species may not affect the other one. Legume taproots are also quite different from the lateral branche

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2 thoughts on “Should You Opt for the Legume? Adding Cowpeas to Forage Sorghum

  1. OK, some good points to consider, but it’s not just about yield and protein. Adding diversity in your plant species increases diversity in soil microbes as well, dramatically. That increases the amounts of available nutrients in the soil, which overall improves soil health, and plant health.

  2. We have cowpeas and sorghum out for first time; will turn the cattle in later this week. I read to graze AS9302 to 6″. But I also want the cowpeas to regrow as well.

    Advice on rotationally grazing cowpeas/sorghum appreciated…Thanks!

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