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Industrial Crops and Products 31 (2010) 289293

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Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.) as a green manure to improve the

productivity of a menthol mint (Mentha arvensis L.) intercropping system
Man Singh , A. Singh, S. Singh, R.S. Tripathi, A.K. Singh, D.D. Patra
Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), PO CIMAP, Lucknow 226015, India

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 24 March 2009
Received in revised form 4 November 2009
Accepted 6 November 2009

Mentha arvensis
Vigna unguiculata
Green manure
Cymbopopogon martinii
Essential oil yield

a b s t r a c t
A eld experiment was conducted at Central Institute of Medicinal and aromatic Plants (CIMAP), Lucknow,
India in a sandy loam soil (entisol) during 2004 and 2005. Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.) was
intercropped with transplanted menthol mint (Mentha arvensis L.) for green manuring (GM) and for
fodder plus green manuring (F + GM) with four levels of urea N (0, 30, 60, 90 kg N ha1 ). In GM, cowpea
was incorporated in the soil 30 days after sowing (DAS), while in F + GM 50% (alternate) cow pea plants
were used for fodder at 30 DAS and 50% were incorporated in soil at 35 DAS. No signicant differences
were found between GM and F + GM with respect to herb and oil yield of menthol mint and succeeding
palmarosa crop and nitrogen economy. Fresh biomass yield of menthol mint increased by 23.4% and
essential oil yield by 25.2% by cowpea green manure (mean of GM and F + GM) as compared to without GM
across all N levels. The contribution of green manure, as a nitrogen source, was equivalent to 30 kg N ha1
when no fertilizer nitrogen was applied in menthol mint. The residual effect of cowpea GM was studied in
a succeeding crop of fast growing essential oil yielding palmarosa (Cymbopopogon martinii (Roxb.)Wats.
var motia Burk.) over two harvests (July and December). Averaged across N levels green manure resulted
in an increase of 18.5% in the fresh biomass and 17.7% in essential oil yield of palmarosa over no green
2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
During the last decade there has been consistent decline in the
prices of menthol mint oil. Therefore, it is critical to minimize the
production inputs to offset the decrease in value. Declining organic
carbon content in Indian soil is of greater cause of concern for future
stability in food production. Yadav (1998) concluded that intensive
and continuous cereal cropping of paddy and wheat with fertilizer
nutrient has caused sharp decline in soil organic carbon status. This
is a major cause of concern in many countries in the world wishing
to increase or sustain the present productivity level.
Menthol mint is an important cash crop in India. It has become
most popular among small holders. In India, mint is cultivated
on approximately 1,60,000 ha of land with annual production of
16,000 t of oil (Singh and Khanuja, 2007). Today, India is the major
global producer and supplier of mint oil and its derivatives in the
world. Mint has a high nutrient demand. Singh (1994) calculated
the N, P and K removal to the extent of 150, 25 and 100 kg ha1 ,
respectively. Application of 160 kg N ha1 for delayed transplanted
menthol mint was recommended by Ram and Kumar (1998). Similar observations were also made by Patra et al. (1998) and Patra et

Corresponding author. Tel.: +91 9453020644; fax: +91 522 2342666.

E-mail address: mansingh (M. Singh).
0926-6690/$ see front matter 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

al. (2000) who worked on fertilizer requirement of menthol mint on

the basis of soil-test-crop response and under integrated nutrient
management system.
Intercropping, the practice of growing two or more crop simultaneously in the same area in a year (Andrews and Kassam, 1976)
has continued to be popular in the developing world, more genuinely where the level of mechanization is low, holdings are small
and most farm operations are performed by family labour. Mixed
cropping involving legumes and non-legumes has been advocated
by several workers (Willey, 1979; Singh et al., 1989). Among others, the potential benets of intercropping includes: (i) control
of soil erosion, (ii) insurance against crop failure, (iii) efcient
utilization of resources by plants with different growth periods,
height, rooting systems, and nutrient requirements, and (iv) transfer of nitrogen xed by legumes to the companion grass species
(Patra et al., 1986; Patra and Subbaih, 1987; Itula and Aguyoh,
However, the main advantage is considered to the observed
increase in soil nitrogen available to the non-legume either through
root exudates or through ploughing off and decay of nodules
(Saito, 1981; Patra et al., 1989). Legume intercropping has the
potential to bring considerable economy in fertilizer nitrogen
application. Kamprath et al. (1958) found that use of hairy vetch
(Vicia villosa Roth.) as winter legume cover crop on Norfold soils
in North Carolina increased maize yields from 26 to 57 t ha1 ,


M. Singh et al. / Industrial Crops and Products 31 (2010) 289293

an increase comparable to that produced by the application of

84106 kg ha1 of nitrogen. Pandey and Pendleton (1986) observed
that soybean intercropping in maize could provide nitrogen equal
to 28 kg N ha1 .
Intercropping of dhaincha (Sesbania aculeata L.) for green
manure simultaneously with cane planting and incorporation in
soil after four weeks improved the cane production by 9.3% in the
rst ratoon and 6% in the second ratoon (Yadav and Dey, 2000). In
another study Yadav (2004) recorded signicant increase in yield
of rice by intercropping of dhaincha (S. aculeata) for green manure.
Few studies have reported on legume intercropping in essential oil
bearing crops for additional bonus yield and return (Singh et al.,
1998; Prakasa Rao et al., 1986) and not for nitrogen economy.
The objective of the present study was to evaluate the use of
cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.) as a green manure in a menthol
mint (Mentha arvensis L.) intercropping system for improving the
productivity and N economy in the soilplant system.
2. Materials and methods
A eld experiment was conducted during 2004 and 2005 at the
research farm of Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants,
Lucknow (located at 26.5 N, 80.5 E and at 120 m above mean sea
level) in a sandy loam soil (entisol) being slightly alkaline in reaction
(pH 8.1) and having 0.3% organic carbon, 140 kg ha1 available N,
13.5 kg ha1 available P and 160 kg ha1 exchangeable K content in
top 15 cm depth.
The experimental site is classied as semi-arid sub-tropical zone
with severe hot summer and fairly cool winters. In this region monsoon normally sets from last week of June and continues till end
of September with an average annual rainfall of 700 mm. About
80% of the monsoon rains are received in July and August. Winter
also experience some rains due to cyclonic disturbances in Arabic
sea. Mean maximum temperature uctuated from 26.1 to 42.5 C;
whereas mean minimum temperature varied from 7.8 to 29.5 C.
The temperature was lowest during mid December to end of January and an increasing trend in mean temperature was noticed
from rst week of February and reached to highest in mid May
and it declines only after the onset of rains.
Twelve treatment combinations comprising three cropping system, i.e. sole menthol mint, cowpea as a green manure with
menthol mint, cowpea as both fodder and green manure and four
levels of N (0, 30, 60, 90 kg N ha1 ) through urea were tested in a
randomized block design with three replications. The plot size was
3.6 m 5 m.
Forty days old menthol mint (M. arvensis L.) cv. Kosi nursery
raised plantlets were transplanted in to 60 cm wide rows at 10 cm

plant to plant spacing in ooded plots in the fourth week of March

in both years. A uniform dose of 60 kg P2 O5 and 60 kg K2 O ha1
was applied as basal fertilizer before planting of mint and mixed
in the soil. Total N was applied as per treatment in three equal
splits; before planting and 35 and 65 days after planting. Cowpea
did not receive any additional fertilizers. Cowpea cv. Russian giant
was sown in between two rows of menthol mint at 15 kg ha1 . The
experiment was conducted under irrigated conditions. Ten surface irrigations each of 50 mm depth were applied in mint at an
interval of 810 days by check basin method and two irrigations
were applied in palmarosa in mid October and mid November.
Cowpea for green manure (GM) was incorporated in the soil 30
days after sowing (DAS), whereas in cowpea fodder + green manure
(F + GM) treatment alternate plants were cut for fodder 30 days
after sowing and the remainder were incorporated in the soil 35
days after sowing. Menthol mint crop was harvested 100 days after
transplanting. After the harvest of menthol mint, plots were hoed
by spade and 40-day-old seedlings of palmarosa (Cymbopopogon
martinii (Roxb.)Wats. var motia Burk.) were planted at 60 30 cm
spacing on 15 July without application of any fertilizers. Palmarosa
was harvested twice in mid October and end of December each
After harvest of menthol mint, soil samples were taken from top
15 cm depth in each plot for analysis of organic carbon content following Walkley and Black (1934) and available N following Alkaline
Permanganate Method (Subbaih and Asija, 1956).
For the estimation of essential oil content in fresh herb of menthol mint and palmarosa, 200 g green plant biomass was collected
just before harvesting from each plot and was hydro distilled in
a Clevenger hydrodistillation apparatus. To obtain oil yield, fresh
herb yield was multiplied by oil content and by 0.9 (approximate specic gravity of oil). Plant samples of menthol mint and
palmarosa were collected at harvest and of cowpea before incorporation in soil for the estimation of dry biomass and N, P, K content,
uptake and addition by respective crops. Plants were cut close to
the ground level from 2 m row length, these were rst sun dried and
then oven dried at 70 C for 48 h. Plant samples were wet digested in
di-acid mixture (3HNO3 :1HCl) for determination of P and K. Phosphorus was determined by the Vanadomolybdo-phosphoric acid
yellow colour method and neutral normal NH4 OAc extractable K by
ame photometer. N was determined by modied micro Kjeldahl
method (Jackson, 1973).
N use efciency was measured by calculating agronomic efciency and N removal as follows.
Agronomic efciency (kg oil kg1 applied N) = [Essential oil yield
(kg ha1 ) in fertilized plot Essential oil yield (kg ha1 ) in control
(N0 ) plot]/Fertilizer N (kg ha1 ) applied.

Table 1
Herb and essential oil yield of menthol mint and palmarosa, agronomic efciency (AE) and nitrogen removal as inuenced by cropping system and nitrogen levels (mean of
two years).
Herb yield (t fresh matter ha1 )

Essential oil yield (kg ha1 )

AE (kg oil kg1 applied N)

Nitrogen removal (kg ha1 )

Menthol mint


Menthol mint


Menthol mint


Menthol mint












Nitrogen levels (kg ha1 )

LSD (P = 0.05)










Cropping system
Without GM
Cowpea GM
Cowpea F + GM
LSD (P = 0.05)

GM, green manure; F, fodder; LSD, least signicant difference; P = 0.05, at 5% probability; NS, non signicant.

M. Singh et al. / Industrial Crops and Products 31 (2010) 289293


Table 2
Amount of green biomass and N, P and K (kg ha1 ) added by cowpea green manure under different nitrogen levels (mean of two years).
Cropping system

Cowpea GM
Cowpea F + GM
LSD (P = 0.05)

Green biomass for fodder


Amount addeda
Green biomass for GMb









N, nitrogen.
15 cm soil depth.
Contained 15% dry matter.

N removal (kg ha1 ) = Dry matter yield (kg ha1 ) N content (%)
in dry matter/100.
3. Results and discussion
3.1. Herb and oil yield of menthol mint and biomass yield of
No signicant differences were found between the treatments
GM and F + GM with respect to herb and oil yield of menthol
mint and agronomic efciency. Incorporation of cowpea green
manure signicantly increased the fresh herb yield of menthol
mint by an average (mean of GM and F + GM) of 23.4% and oil
yield by 25.2% over the control without GM (Table 1). Averaged
across N levels, menthol mint yielded 1.23 and 1.26 kg of essential
oil kg1 applied N with cowpea GM and F + GM, respectively and
0.95 kg oil kg1 applied N without GM (Table 1). Menthol mint and
cowpea responded signicantly up to 90 kg N ha1 as the highest N
level 90 kg ha1 was much lower than the 160 kg N ha1 normally
recommended for menthol mint (Ram and Kumar, 1998). The contribution of green manure, as a nitrogen source, was equivalent
to 30 kg N ha1 when no fertilizer nitrogen was applied (Fig. 1).
Pandey and Pendleton (1986) also reported 28 kg N ha1 contribution of soyabean green manure incorporated at 42 days after
sowing in maize when no nitrogen was applied. In a similar study

Fig. 1. Effect of nitrogen levels with and without cowpea green manure on menthol
mint yield.

using soil and fertilizer labeling technique with 15 N on estimation of dinitrogen xation by cowpea and concurrent transfer of
x N to maize, Patra et al. (1986) reported a nitrogen benet of
about 30 kg ha1 to the companion maize in maize cowpea intercropping. A signicant increase in biomass yield of legume green
manure crops with the application of N up to 60 kg ha1 was also
recorded by Jeranyama et al. (2000) and Yadav (2004). The higher
biomass of mint and intercrop cowpea is understandable in view
of the fact that in the early stages, growth of menthol mint being
extremely low, cowpea could be able to utilize full advantages of
available growth resources whereas in the subsequent stage mint
did not face any competition with the companion crop which was
incorporated in soil at 3035 days after sowing. Trenbath (1979)
postulated that under non-limiting soil conditions, crops of different heights, like wheat and alfalfa, have an advantage in terms of
daily net photosynthesis.
Although the contribution of cowpea green manure was small
it may be signicant for small farmers whose cash input is limited. When cowpea was incorporated as green manure at 30 and
35 days after sowing, it produced 4450 (N0 GM) to 6850 (N90 ,
GM) kg green biomass which contained 2030.8 kg N, 4.06.1 kg P
and 12.018.3 kg K ha1 (Table 2). In F + GM treatment 50% (alternate) plants were cut at 30 DAS for fodder; the remaining 50%
plants were allowed to grow for ve more days till 35 DAS accumulated almost same amount of biomass as 100% plants at 30
DAS as it was the grand growth period of cowpea. There was no
interplant competition, soil moisture was sufcient and weather
conditions were suitable. Maximum temperature 3540 C, minimum temperature 2025 C and bright sunny days induced very
fast growth of cowpea as all the cultivars of cowpea are considered as warm season, adapted to hot and drought conditions and
respond well to optimum soil moisture. Aikins and Afuakwa (2008)
also reported about 50% increase in plant height, 25% increase
in stem girth and 100% increase in number of leaves per plant
in cowpea within a period of one week (between four and ve
weeks after emergence) at Kumasi, Ghana. Besides shoot biomass,
un-quantied amounts of decomposing roots and nodules might
have contributed nitrogen to the menthol mint (Patra et al., 1989).
Cowpea F + GM also yielded 16563420 kg ha1 green fodder as a
bonus which is of signicant value during summer in mint growing areas. The benecial effect of green manuring has also been
reported in other crops (not mint); ricewheat system by Yadav
et al. (2000) and Yadav (2004), in maize by Pandey and Pendleton
(1986) and Jeranyama et al. (2000) and in tomatomaize system
by Thonnissen et al. (2000). In intercropping system involving
wheat and alfalfa, protein yield of wheat crop was signicantly


M. Singh et al. / Industrial Crops and Products 31 (2010) 289293

Table 3
Soil organic carbon content and available nitrogen after harvest of menthol mint as
inuenced by cowpea green manure under different N levels (mean of two years)a .
Organic carbon
content (%)

Available nitrogen (kg ha1 )

Cropping system
Without GM
Cowpea GM
Cowpea F + GM
LSD (P = 0.05)



Nitrogen levels (kg ha1 )

LSD (P = 0.05)




In top 15 cm soil; N, nitrogen; GM, green manure; F, fodder; NS, non signicant.

increased over wheat grown as sole crop (Magid Abdel et al.

3.2. Residual effect
The residual effects of green manure and N doses applied to
menthol mint were signicant on fresh herb and oil yield of succeeding palmarosa crop (Table 1). No signicant differences were
found between the treatments GM and F + GM with respect to
herb and oil yield of palmarosa. Intercropping of cowpea for GM
resulted in 18.5% increases in fresh biomass and 17.7% increase in
oil yield of palmarosa over that without GM. It was due to enriching of soil by an average (mean of G and F + G) 13.4 kg N ha1 ,
i.e. 8.4% increase in available N over no green manure (Table 3).
Though incorporation of cowpea GM in mint did not increase the
organic carbon content in the soil signicantly but it enhanced
the content by 3.1% over no GM. There was no signicant difference in agronomic efciency (kg oil kg1 applied N) in palmarosa
due to GM when averaged over N rates. However, palmarosa
yielded 0.18 and 0.19 kg oil kg1 applied N with GM and F + GM,
respectively and 0.17 kg oil kg1 applied N without GM (Table 1).
Thonnissen et al. (2000) also recorded signicant residual effect
of green manure and fertilizer N applied to tomato on dry matter accumulation and N removal by succeeding maize. The residual
effect of soybean GM applied to tomato on the following maize
was similar to that of 120 kg N ha1 . Yadav (2004) also reported
signicant residual effects of S. aculeata green manure applied to
rice on grain yield of succeeding wheat, agronomic efciency and
recovery efciency of N particularly when low N was applied to
wheat. Similar residual effect of cowpea intercropping and nitrogen in maize was also reported in succeeding wheat by Patra et
al. (1989).
3.3. Nitrogen removal
Removal of N by menthol mint, palmarosa and total significantly increased with cowpea GM and N levels (Table 1). No
signicant differences were found between the treatments GM
and F + GM. Incorporation of cowpea for GM on an average (mean
of GM and F + GM) increased the N removal by 27.3%, 20.5%
and 24.3%, through menthol mint, palmarosa and total (menthol
mint + palmarosa), respectively as compared to that without green
4. Conclusions
Based on our results, it is apparent that intercropping of fast
growing fodder variety of cowpea both for fodder and green manure

in menthol mint for 35 days improved the efciency of nitrogen

fertilizer and economized about 30 kg N ha1 , improved the soil
fertility and yield of succeeding palmarosa crop. It also produced
16563420 kg ha1 green fodder as a bonus which is of signicant
value during summer in mint growing areas. This practice is more
benecial when palmarosa or any cereal crop is grown as succeeding crop with limited fertilizer nitrogen.

The authors are thankful to the Director, Central Institute of
Medicinal and Aromatic plants, Lucknow for providing facilities.

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