By: Amy Grant
Southern peas, or cowpeas, are also sometimes referred to as black-eyed pea or crowder pea. Widely grown and originating in Africa, southern peas are also grown in Latin America, Southeast Asia and throughout the southern United States. Read on to learn more.
Southern pea wilt is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum. Symptoms of wilt of southern peas include stunted and wilted plants. Lower leaves turn yellow and prematurely drop from the plant.
As the infection progresses, dark brown woody tissue in the lowers stem is observed. Death of southern peas with wilt may be rapid once the infection sets in. Nematodes increase the plant’s susceptibility to wilt of southern pea.
Wilt of southern peas is exacerbated by cool and wet weather conditions. The best control of Fusarium wilt is the use of resistant varieties. If not used, practice root-knot nematode control, as the plants susceptibility is increased with nematode presence.
Also, avoid planting peas when soil temperatures and weather conditions are ideal for the fungus. Avoid deep cultivation around the plants which may injure roots, thus increasing the incidence of the disease.
Treat high quality seed with a fungicide specific to cowpeas and apply this fungicide in the furrow before sowing. Rotate non-host crops every 4-5 years. Control weeds around the planting site and immediately remove and destroy any virus infected debris or plants.
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Read more about Black Eyed Peas
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Black-eyed Peas Toby Hudson CC BY-SA 3.0
Call it what you want- cowpea, field pea, or southern pea, these varieties of Vigna unguiculata are all hard-working plants that pull double duty as a cover crop and summer vegetable. Field peas are larger, vining plants that produce a dark cooking liquid. Crowder peas also produce a dark cooking liquid, but have starchy seeds. Cream peas produce a light cooking liquid on smaller plants. Black-eyed peas are probably the southern peas with which you’re the most familiar.
Southern peas are true beans, or legumes, and are different from the garden or English peas you get at the grocery store. These garden peas only grow in the transitional seasons of fall and spring in our area where southern peas thrive in brutal heat, overbearing sun, and poor soils. The southern pea’s status as a legume means a symbiotic relationship is formed with bacteria to fix nitrogen, which is a boon to the plant in poor soils and a nutrient boost for crops that follow.
Sow southern pea seeds directly after the last frost, usually around April 15 in central North Carolina . Southern peas can excel in the areas of your garden bed where other ornamentals or vegetables fail. Once the plants begin bearing—anywhere from 6 weeks to 4 months after planting—they will bear until the first killing frost. Southern peas blanch and freeze beautifully and you can also dry them. If you can’t put any away, you can make a few large harvests then till the plants under to improve the soil texture further.
As with many other cover crops, be sure to kill, till, pick or otherwise remove all pea pods to keep them from germinating again the following spring. I’ve worked with a grower who used southern peas as a cover crop 3 years ago and they are still finding volunteers in their fields now! For more information, see this article from University of Arkansas Extension.
If you're a North Carolina resident with a question about a topic on this site, your local N.C. Cooperative Extension office can help.