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AATF, IAR develop insect pest resistant cowpea

as farmers hope to have access to seeds, bumper yields

By Gabriel Ewepu

GUSAU- THE African Agricultural Technology Foundation, AAFT, and Institute for Agricultural Research, IAR, have succeeded in developing insect pest resistant cowpea called Maruca and for bumper harvest by farmers.

This was made known on behalf of the research team, Principal Investigator, Pod-borer Resistant Cowpea Project, IAR, Ahmadu Bello University, Prof. Mohamed Ishiyaku, during the ‘Pod Borer Cowpea Field Day, at Bakura, Zamfara State, where he said the project commenced in 2009 with provision of the plant gene by AATF .

According to Ishiyaku, the research became important to develop an insect resistant cowpea as farmers continued to suffer 80 per cent yield loss caused by Maruca, the pod-borer over the years, and said the seed will be made public for farmers and seed companies to have access in 2018, after it has been scrutinized by the National Variety Release Committee, and registered.

The university don also added that the improved Maruca resistant cowpea could produce 1.6 tons per hectare against the current 600kg per hectare, and cultivated all year round, although it has been on trial.

He said: “Strong investigations revealed that up till 80 per cent yield loss can be caused by the insect (Maruca), a pod-borer, and again cowpeas are protected against insects using insecticides sprays and we know insecticides are only expensive that so many of our farmers cannot afford them, but they are also harmful to our health.

“The best way of controlling and containing the insect is to develop a self-protection within the plant, which is called host plant resistant using the approach of breeding. The breeding is within the same family of organisms.

Vegetable farmers at work
Vegetable farmers at work

“It is a matter of breeding a resistant plant and a disease susceptible plant to give the farm a preferred variety and disease resistant variety in one plant. The seeds are improved by combining the characters, and it is called conventional breeding. If the insect bites the cowpea plant it dies at the spot.

“The partnership entails developing and testing cowpea varieties with a genetic trait that would make the plant resistant to the borer and provide farmers with an alternative to costly and hazardous insecticide spraying.”

However, a cowpea farmer, Mallam Mahawuya, who spoke in Hausa on behalf of other farmers appealed to the institute to make the seeds available to them directly after it will be released and not to be hijacked by middlemen and diverted to other countries.

Also in his remarks, Utaan Dominica, who represented Country Coordinator, Open Agricultural Biotechnology, OFAB, Nigeria Chapter, Dr Rose Maxwell-Gidado, said benefits of the research will help diversify the economy and provide food security for the people.

“We hope that the benefits of the on-going research be appreciated by everyone especially as Nigeria is looking for ways to diversify and become food secure. We encourage the scientists and researchers working on GM crop to keep up the great work they are doing. Together, we can make Nigeria a country that produces its own food and also exports and makes money from this our indigenous crop”, Marxell-Gidado added.


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