Plant and Soil

, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 355–368 | Cite as

Protein and free amino acids in field-grown cowpea seeds as affected by water stress at various growth stages

  • C. K. Labanauskas
  • Peter Shouse
  • L. H. Stolzy
  • M. F. Handy


This study was undertaken to evaluate water stress effects during vegetative, flowering, and podfilling stages of cowpea plants (Vigna unguiculata L.) grown under natural field conditions in southern California on seed yield and protein and free amino acid content of the cowpea seeds.

The lowest concentration of N was found in the seeds of the control treatment plants while the seed yield from these treatments was the highest as compared with the N concentration and yield of seeds from plants subjected to water stress during flowering and podfilling stages. The concentration of N in the seeds was inversely related to the seed dry weight yield.

Protein arginine,-threonine,-serine,-cystine,-valine,-methionine, and-isoleucine were significantly affected by water stress at the three growth stages. There was no consistent pattern in the effect of water stress on the individual amino acids. The sum of protein amino acids in the cowpea seeds was not significantly influenced by the various treatments since some of the protein amino acids increased and others decreased producing an averaging effect on the figures comprising the sums of the amino acids.

Water stress during the flowering and pod-filling stages increased the free amino acid pool, and at the same time, inhibited incorporation of the amino acids into the protein chain-thus lowering the protein amino acid fraction simultaneously.

With the exception of methionine plus cystine, the essential amino acids in the seeds were present at concentrations equal to or greater than recommended by the World Health Organization and FAO. It is of particular importance to note that the concentration of lysine in the cowpeas was substantially higher than that found in wheat grain. It is also important to note that the amount of essential amino acids per gram of protein was not measurably affected by the water stress treatments during any of the growth stages.

Key Words

Amino acids Cowpea Proteins Water stress 


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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff/Dr W. Junk Publishers 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. K. Labanauskas
    • 1
  • Peter Shouse
    • 1
  • L. H. Stolzy
    • 1
  • M. F. Handy
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Botany and Plant Sciences and Soil and Environmental SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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