Impacts of drought stress on crop production can significantly impair farmer’s revenue, hence adversely impacting the gross national product growth. For cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.], which is a legume of economic importance, effects of drought at early vegetative growth could lead to substantial yield losses. However, little has been done with respect to breeding for cowpea cultivars withstanding drought at early vegetative growth. In addition, previous investigations have focused on how plant morphology and root architecture can confer drought tolerance in cowpea, which is not sufficient in efforts to unravel unknown drought tolerance–related genetic mechanisms, potentially of great importance in breeding, and not pertaining to either plant morphology or root architecture. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate aboveground drought-related traits of cowpea genotypes at seedling stage. A total of 30 cowpea genotypes were greenhouse grown within boxes and the experimental design was completely randomized with three replicates. Drought stress was imposed for 28 days. Data on a total of 17 aboveground-related traits were collected. Results showed the following: 1) a large variation in these traits was found among the genotypes; 2) more trifoliate wilt/chlorosis tolerance but more unifoliate wilt/chlorosis susceptible were observed; 3) delayed senescence was related to the ability of maintaining a balanced chlorophyll content in both unifoliate and trifoliate leaves; and 4) the genotypes PI293469, PI349674, and PI293568 were found to be slow wilting and drought tolerant. These results could contribute to advancing breeding programs for drought tolerance in cowpea.
Previous investigations showed that accumulations of Na+ and Cl− in leaves resulted in reductions in chlorophyll content, thereby affecting photosynthesis. Understanding how chlorophyll content evolves over time will help plant breeders to select cowpea genotypes with better tolerance to salinity by allowing them to choose those with more stable chlorophyll content under salt stress. The objective of this study was to assess how the chlorophyll content of cowpea genotypes changed over the course of 24 d of salt stress at the seedling stage. A total of 24 cowpea genotypes with different salt responses were used in this study. The experiment used a split-plot design with salt treatment as the main plot and cowpea genotypes as the subplot. In the main plot, there were two salt treatments: 0 mm (ionized water) and 200 mm NaCl. In the subplot, the cowpea genotypes were arranged as a completely randomized design with three replicates per genotype. The results revealed that: a1) the time × genotype interaction was significant under conditions with and without salt; 2) chlorophyll content slowly decreased in the salt-tolerant genotypes; 3) chlorophyll content slightly increased on day 6 and day 9 of salt stress in both moderate and sensitive genotypes, but it decreased at a faster rate than in the salt-tolerant genotypes; and 4) salt-sensitive genotypes were completely dead on day 24 of salt stress, whereas the salt-tolerant genotypes were able to maintain a significant amount of chlorophyll content. These results can be used to advance breeding programs for salt tolerance in cowpea.