The federal government has approved registration and commercial release of a new transgenic cowpea variety resistant to pod borers.
The newly released variety does not differ in any way from already existing cowpeas (beans) other than the improvements made.
This was disclosed by the National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Varieties, chaired by Oladosu Awoyemi, at its 28th meeting held in Ibadan.
The new cowpea variety, SAMPEA 20-T, was developed by scientists at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in collaboration with various partners under coordination of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).
Speaking about the breakthrough, the Principal Investigator for the project and Executive Director, IAR, Zaria, Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku, said both the on-station and on-farm trials demonstrated the superiority of SAMPEA 20-T relative to local, recently released cowpea varieties and improved breeding lines tested.
He said; “SAMPEA 20-T is high yielding, early maturing and resistant to Striga and Alect insects causing up to 90 percent yield loss in severe infestation.
“The protein and nutrients content of variety ‘SAMPEA 20-T is the same as that of other conventional varieties meaning that the Bt gene that was introduced into the variety has no negative influence on the nutritional composition of both grain and folder.”
With the recent environmental approval by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), confirmed the product was safe for human, livestock and the environment and paved the way for submission to the National Variety Release Committee for consideration and registration as a commercial crop in Nigeria.
This new variety has early 70 to 75 maturing days with semi erect growth habit and photoperiod insensitive and has medium large white seeds that would significantly reduce the number of sprays currently apply to the crop from 6 to 7 times to only 2 per cropping season and as a result realise better yield in quantity and quality.
It would also contribute to addressing the national cowpea demand deficit of about 500,000 tonnes and also improve the national productivity average of 350kg/hectare.
The Executive Director, AATF, Dr Denis Kyetere, commended the federal government for releasing the new cowpea variety, noting that it showed commitment towards improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmer.
“Cowpea farmers have had to endure difficult farming conditions that required spraying dangerous chemicals on their crop to make a profit which is risking their lives,” he explained.
On his part, the Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Prof. Garba Sharubuta, said cowpea was a major staple and vegetarian source of dietary protein in Africa.
“Its production has been stalled by severe attack of lepidopteran insect pests in both the field and storage. One of such notorious pests is the legume pod-borer, Maruca vitrata.”