Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.), a plant broadly cultivated for human consumption and animal feed, is among the most nutritious grain legumes. Most of the areas where cowpea is grown are drought-prone, and there is a need to address this issue, with water scarcity becoming a major concern in agriculture. Cowpea is known to form mutualistic associations with nitrogen-fixing (NF) bacteria and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. These beneficial soil microorganisms have the capacity to benefit plants by reducing the effects of environmental stresses, including drought. Our aim was to study the effect of inoculation with Bradyrhizobium elkanii and Rhizophagus irregularis on the growth and grain yield of cowpea under water-deficit conditions. Under moderate water deficit, grain yield was increased by 63%, 55% and 84% in plants inoculated with B. elkanii, R. irregularis and B. elkanii R. irregularis, respectively. Under severe water deficit, inoculation with B. elkanii and B. elkanii R. irregularis resulted in grain-yield enhancement of 45% and 42%, respectively. The use of cowpea inoculated with NF bacteria and AM fungi has great potential for sustainable agricultural production under drought conditions.
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Vol. 68 • No. 10–11