Foundation set to release new pest-resistant cowpea varieties
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in partnership with some organisations would soon release locally adapted Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) cowpea varieties in Sub Saharan Africa(SSA).
The Executive Director of AATF, Dr Denis Kyetere, said this on Tuesday at the AATF Annual Review and Planning Meeting of PBR Cowpea Project at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.
He said the varieties were expected to reduce grain yield losses caused by the Pod Borer Maruca vitrata as well as reduce the need for insecticidal sprays.
Kyetere emphasised that the expected yield improvement would impact on household national and global food security economic status.
He pointed out that the deployment of a cowpea product capable of protecting itself from Maruca attack would make it easier and cheaper for farmers to produce cowpeas in areas where there was pest.
“I am excited about the prospects that the project holds given the excellent results from the trial fields across the four countries involved in the research.
“Countries like Nigeria will stop importing cowpeas in the coming years as it is expected to be cowpea sufficient with the advent of this variety,” he said.
Also speaking, the Principal Investigator, PBR Cowpea Nigeria, Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku, said several Confined Field Trials (CFTs) were conducted annually.
Ishiyaku added that the efficacy and agronomic potential of the elite line had been successfully evaluated.
He said the Pod Borer resistant trait had been introgressed into some farmer preferred cowpea varieties through conventional breeding.
The efficacy of the trait, he said, was evaluated in multi-location CFTs in Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Ghana.
He further disclosed that various environmental, food/feed safety assessments had been conducted and the product speedily advancing toward de-regulation and commercial release to millions of resource-poor farmers.
According to him, the Pod Borer (Maruca vitrata) was a major lepidopteran pest that inflicts severe damage to the cowpea plant.
“In severe infestations, yield losses of between 70 to 80 per cent had been reported.
“ Control through spraying with insecticide has not been widely adopted by farmers due its prohibitive costs.
“On the other hand, farmers who have adopted control through spraying have been exposed to serious health hazards; by God’s grace this variety will be out in 2018,” he said.
Similarly, the Project Manager, PBR Cowpea, Dr Issoufou Kollo, noted that the project’s goal was to develop and disseminate farmer-preferred and locally adapted Maruca resistant cowpea varieties in Sub-Saharan Africa.
He said it was a public/private partnership coordinated by AATF with funding support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) aimed at promoting technological interventions that would optimise cowpea productivity and utilisation.
Kollo said the partnership entailed developing and testing cowpea varieties with a genetic trait that would make the plant resistant to the Borer and provide farmers with alternative to costly and hazardous insecticide spraying.
“The project is being implemented in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Malawi.
“This year’s annual review, planning meeting will bring together experts to discuss the way forward toward regulatory approval, commercial release and further development of the technology.