Speargrass (Imperata cylindrica) is difficult to control in the tropics. Farmers allocate most of their time and labour to weeding speargrass. We investigated in a joint experiment concluded with farmers, how effectively grain legumes suppress speargrass, and the relationships between speargrass suppression, legume grain yield, and subsequent maize yield. Without management, speargrass shoots and rhizomes increased with 31 and 17% per month, respectively. The integration of deep ridging, deep hoe weeding and shading suppressed speargrass more effectively than farmers' practices. Creeping varieties of cowpea that produced most biomass were most successful in suppressing speargrass and in enhancing subsequent maize yields, but erect cowpea cultivars produced more grain. Farmers traded off cowpea yield against speargrass suppression to bridge the hungry gap. They preferred the erect cowpea cultivar wan. The need to forego a harvest and the fact that pigeonpea is not consumed in the area makes pigeonpea presently unsuitable for integration into the cropping system.