The cowpea has stood out on the national scene, opening up new perspectives and applications of a more suitable management to ensure quality product. Therefore, it is important to know the responsiveness to the levels of deficit and excess water in the soil. Thus, the aim of the present study was to evaluate the initial development of cowpea plants subjected to different soil water availabilities. The experiment was conducted in a greenhouse, in a completely randomized design with six water availabilities (40, 60, 80, 100, 120 and 140% of the maximum soil water holding capacity) with four replicates. Maintaining soil moisture was performed using gravimetric method. The results were submitted to analysis of variance and regression at 5% probability through Sisvar statistical program. The plant height, stem diameter, number of leaves, dry mass of shoots and roots were evaluated 35 days after implantation of the treatments. The water availabilities that provide better development and yield of cowpea BRS Nova Era stood in the range of 78.5 to 84.5% of the maximum soil water retention.
Key words: Brazilian Cerrado, Vigna unguiculata, water stress.
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