Managing Cowpea Pests and Diseases: Effective Control Strategies

Pest and Disease Management in Cowpea

Kirimi (Fridah) Kajuju

Horticulturists - Advocate for sustainable agriculture

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Pest and Disease Management in Cowpeas

Pests and diseases are major problems in cowpeas, leading to high losses in crop yields. They can be present in each development stage of the crops and can attack each plant tissue/part. Cowpeas are also susceptible to a wide range of pests and diseases, including viral, fungal, bacterial, and nematodes. The most important diseases in cowpeas include: 


Anthracnose Colletotrichum spp. : It is caused by fungi. It affects the leaves, pods, stems, petioles, and seeds, and the symptoms are angular spots on leaves that have veins and range from reddish-brownish, especially on the bottom side of the leaves, showing black streaks. 

Asochyta blight Asochyta phaseolorum: It is caused by fungi. The plants experience severe defoliation and have spots on the leaves and pods.

Brown rust Uromyces spp.: It is caused by fungi. The symptoms are shriveled or dry young pods. The pods become rusty and have brown spots and sunken cancers surrounded by reddish-brown borders. 

Cercospora and Pseudocercospora leaf spot Cercospora canscens

Pseudocercospora cruenta: It is caused by fungi. The symptoms are large reddish-brown spots that cause the entire leaf to turn yellow and fall.

Charcoal rot Macrophomina phaseolina: It is caused by fungi. The leaves remain green but the entire plant suddenly wilts and dries.

Fusarium wilt Fusarium oxysporum: It is caused by fungi. The lower leaves on one side of the plant start turning yellow. The plants have stunted growth and start to wilt. 

Powdery mildew Erisyphe polygani: It is caused by fungi. The symptoms are small and white talcum spots on the leaves.

Southern blight Sclerotium rolfsii: It is caused by fungi. The symptoms are chlorosis and wilting of the foliage, starting from the lower leaves, and the plant dies eventually.

Bacterial blight Xanthomonas campestris: It is caused by a bacterium. The symptoms are water-soaked angular spots on leaves.


Aphids Aphis craccivora Acyrthosiphon pisum: They spread the mosaic virus in the plants. They also sap juice from the leaves and stems during the seedling stages.

Armyworms Spodoptera exigua Spodoptera praefica: The symptoms are windowpane or lagged leaves.

Mexican bean beetle Epilachna varivestis: The symptoms are tender tissues between the leaf veins are damaged.


Root-knot nematode Meloidogyne spp.. The symptoms are stunted growth with chlorosis and wilting

The best management practices are:

  • Practicing good field sanitation, like removing debris
  • Planting certified seeds
  • Planting disease-free seeds
  • Use of appropriate foliar fertilizers
  • Plant on well-drained soils
  • Plant resistant varieties
  • Pruning and destroying the infected plants

Other problems facing cowpea cultivation and development in the world include heat, drought, and cold. 


  1. Ecocrop, 2009. Ecocrop database. FAO
  2. FAO, 2013. Grassland Index. A searchable catalogue of grass and forage legumes. FAO, Rome, Italy
  3. Madamba et al., 2006. Record from Protabase. Brink, M. & Belay, G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands
  4. Tarawali, S. A.; Singh, B. B.; Peters, M.; Blade, S. F., 1997. Cowpea haulms as fodder. In: Singh, B. B., Advances in cowpea research, IITA

Further reading

Complete Guide to Growing and Harvesting Cowpeas: Planting Tips and Care

Cowpea Plant Information and Variety Selection


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