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Morphology and mineral content of cowpea lines in response to planting date and zinc application rate
Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp) is an important grain and fodder legume grown around the world. It is a dual purpose grain legume crop, providing food for man and livestock. Cowpea is identified as a potential crop to diversify food production, minimize production input by improving soil fertility and improve micronutrients of seed, therefore, improving human nutrition. There is limited information available on cowpea production and suitable agronomic practices including planting date to best suit different environmental conditions in South Africa. The objective of this study was therefore to i) evaluate two soil types (sandy and clay soil) and its effect on cowpea, yield components and mineral composition, ii) the effect of different planting date and iii) assess the effect of zinc fertilizer application rate on vegetative, reproductive parameters and mineral content of cowpea seed. A field trial was conducted in Agricultural Research Council (ARC), in two locations Nietvoorbij (clay loam soil) and Bien Donne’ (sandy soil) during the 2015 summer planting season. The trial layout was conducted in a randomised complete block design (RCBD) with five replicates. The factors of the study include three cowpea lines: Cowpea Veg1, M217 and Qukawa with zinc application rate of (0, 15 and 30 kg/ha) through soil application and two planting date (2 October and 2 November 2015). The following agronomic variables were collected, in both locations: germination rate, number of leaves, number of branches, plant height, number of seed per pod, number of pods per plant, pod length, pods per treatment, pod weight, 100 seed weight, morphological traits, moisture content and seed mineral content. Vegetative data was collected on a fourth-night basis on six middle plants per treatment and reproductive parameters were taken after harvest. The variables were subjected to ANOVA using software SAS (2012). Treatments were tested at 5% level of significance and differences between treatments were separated using LSD and DMRT of the SAS 2012 test. The results indicated that vegetative and reproductive parameters measured varied significantly among cowpea lines in each location and across locations due to different cowpea lines and soil type. Line Cowpea Veg1 and Qukawa were the best performing line in both vegetative and yield parameters across the two planting dates in 2015. These lines significantly obtained higher plant height than line M217. Yield and yield parameters were significantly affected by cowpea line. Qukawa obtained the highest seed yield at Bien Donne’ with a mean of 1184.2 kg/ha and seed yield of 686.25 kg/ha for Cowpea Veg1 at Nietvoorbij. The second planting date (2 November 2015) improved germination of plants across the two locations, therefore improving vegetative growth. Zinc (Zn) fertilizer significantly improved plant height across all treatments. An inconsistent response to yield parameters due to Zn application rate was observed. However, though not significant, Zn application of 15 kg/ha increased most of the measured parameters. It was concluded that line Cowpea Veg1 and Qukawa were the best performing lines. The second planting date (2 November) increase germination rate for both locations. It is therefore, recommended that future research should evaluate Zn fertilizer time of application.