The crowder pea is a warm-season crop that grows best when planted between the middle of May to the middle of June, recommends the Purdue Cooperative Extension. Do not plant cowpeas in May in areas where soybeans are a major crop, as this makes May plantings susceptible to damage from the bean leaf beetle. Recommended planting time in these areas is June or July. Germination occurs at minimal temperatures of 50 degrees and optimally at 65 degrees.
The crop grows best in well-drained, sandy soil with a pH of 6.0 or higher. Crowder pea is intolerant of excessive soil moisture. Germination and subsequent plant growth is aided by the application of 25 lbs. of nitrogen per acre at planting time. Crowder peas fix their own nitrogen in soil. The crop is more drought tolerant than a number of other crops.
The plants are anywhere between 2 to 3 feet tall and bushy-to-vinelike in growth, depending on variety. The 3 to 6 inches long seedpods grow above the leaf axils and are visible on the plants. Each pod contains 6 to 13 seeds. The plants start to set pods within two months of planting and are harvest ready a month to 40 days later. The black or brown seeds are speckled and globe shaped.
Crowder peas have rich nutritional content with 23 percent protein, 1.8 percent fiber, 1.3 percent fat, 67 percent carbohydrates and 8 to 9 percent water. The legume is most extensively used in the Southeastern regions of the United States. Since 1940, crowder pea use has slowly decreased due to an increasing popularity for other legumes, such as clover and soybeans. Crowder peas are not only used for human consumption but also for pastures and hay.