Cowpeas is a vegetable legume crop belonging to the group of pulses. Pulses are the second most important group of crops worldwide after cereals. World Health Organisation actually recommends 80 grams of pulses per person per day (ASSOCHAM, 2012). Cowpeas belongs to the family Papillionaceae, genus Vigna and species unguiculata with eleven pairs of chromosomes, (2n=22). The major constraint in pulse production is the lower productivity per unit area, which exposes the importance in adoption of effective seed crop management techniques, (Anbarasan et al., 2016). Pelleting is a presowing Physical seed management technique in which growth promotive substances or any needy substance with protective, nutritive and invigorative function are applied on the seed to enhance the seed_soil interface (Scott, 1989) at the rhizosphere region. Some of the common benefits of pelleting are uniformity in size, easier planting, uniform strands reduced seed rate, improved resistance to insect pests and diseases, stress tolerance and nourishment to seedlings. (Balaji, 1990; Angamuthu, 1991; Nargis, 1995; Peterhalmer, 2003)
Micronutrient deficiency in the soil can reduce crop yields and quality (Konkol et al., 2012). Cowpeas has been widely grown as an intercrop, but has shown much better performance interms of seed yields thus farmers should be encouraged to grow cowpeas as a sole crop/ pure stand (Ngalamu et al., 2014). This calls for Intensification in cowpeas production. When it's supplied with micronutrients which assist in nodulation and increase photosynthetic ability of the crop, there may be a possibility if improving its performance.
The General Objective of the Study Is
To determine the effect of micronutrients on growth and yields of cowpeas. The specific objectives include:
- To compare the performance of cowpeas pelleted with different micronutrients.
- To intensify and increase cowpeas production in Kenya.
- To increase food security.
- To reduce malnutrition diseases in Kenya.
Studies have shown that cowpea contains antioxidants which are necessary for good heart health and functioning, prevents cancer and anemia. (Duke, 1981) It is a multifunctional crop. It's leaves are highly nutritiously since they are a good source of vitamins A, B1 &C, and is rich in minerals like phosphorus, carbohydrates, proteins and fibre. The dried seeds contain proteins and carbohydrates. Animals also benefit when the upper portion of the crop is cut and fed directly to the animals as fodder. It also serves as a valuable dependable revenue generating commodity in many parts of the world since it grows in almost all ecological conditions. It can be grown both as a subsistence crop and as a revenue earning cash crop. Nevertheless, it's importance as a major legume in improving cereal based diets of rural population and it's role in improving soil fertility remains unknown. (FAO, 1988) Site selection and Land preparation: The project will be implemented at Meru University farm in Tigania West subcounty, Meru County.
The experimental design to be used is randomized block design (RBD), with two replicates per treatment. Land will be manually prepared using conventional hand tools upon which the soil will be allowed for some time (1week) to allow for decomposition of plant materials that will be incorporated into the soil during ploughing. This improves soil fertility which is good for seed germination (DAFF, 2014). Well decomposed farmyard manure is then applied and mixed with the soil. Planting holes will then be prepared using a spacing of 40 by 30 cm and a depth of five centimetres, awaiting for the planting of the pelleted seeds. In the pelleting process, genetically pure seeds of Cowpeas, (variety Katumani 80) are stamped using an adhesive and are filled with filler materials by sprinkling and are rolled on a flat surface for uniformity in size and coating. Vermiculite will be used as an organic adhesive and will be prepared as twenty percent concentration by dissolving 20 grams of the adhesive in 100 millilitres of distilled water. Ammonium molybdate and ferrous sulphate will be used as the filler materials. The seeds will then be subdivided into four sub samples and one sample will be left unpelleted (control) and the other three samples individually coated with the adhesive at 200 mlKg-1 after which the fillers: Zinc sulphate, Ammonium molybdate and a mixture of zinc sulphate and ammonium molybdate will be added on individual samples by sprinkling the powders @ 300 gKg-1 of seed. The seeds are then dried under shade for two days, and then planted on the already prepared planting holes. Data collection and analysis: Daily counts will be taken on each of the treatments and the replicate up to germination period of six days (ISTA, 2010) and the speed of germination calculated as per Maguire, (1962) using the formula; Seed emergence (%) = Number of normal seeds ÷ Total number of seeds placed for emergence × 100% One week after germination, 30 plants in each treatment will be tagged at random and growth parameters to be considered include: plant height at 2 weeks, 4 weeks and 6 weeks, number of leaves at equal time intervals, days to flowering, number of pods per plant and number of seeds per pod. The entire data will be analyzed using a three way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA).