A group of researchers of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, has developed insect-resistant cowpea with potentials to save Nigeria N16 billion annually.
The research team under the aegis of the ABU Institute of Agricultural Research, which was led by Professor Ishaq Mohammed Faguci, stated that the scientific development was to curb the challenges facing cowpea production in the nation.
The ‘Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea Research Team’ stated that the new variety of cowpea was developed through genetic engineering and is safe for public consumption just like other types produced locally.
According to Prof. Faguci, “The results of scientific efforts apply in modern techniques of genetic engineering has led to the development of cowpea variety that can protect itself against destructive effects of the pod borer. This now makes it possible for farmers to grow cowpea in their fields with very minimal insecticide sprays.
“We conducted series of scientific experiments under the supervision of National Biosafety Management Agency, (NMBA) and submitted the results to required agencies. The NMBA after studying the results submitted them concluded that this new variety is safe as other conventional ones. They, however, granted the permission for its environmental release and that it should be grown in our farms everywhere in this country. ”
The team-lead added that, “One of the main research efforts of IAR over the past 10 years had been to combat the menace of a destructive insect that affects cowpea production in Nigeria. The insect is called ‘Maruca pod borer’ and is known to cause up to 80 per cent yield loss in cowpea fields. The research efforts of IAR had yielded positive results.”
Pointing out that the new cowpea variety would help farmers to stop using toxic insecticides which are dangerous to humans and environment, the team also emphasised that it could save the nation about N16b annually and earn it about N48b in foreign exchange.
The statement also noted that “the new cowpea variety has potentials of giving farmers in the country 20 per cent more yield. Its economic benefits to Nigeria from one million hectares of crop will translate to over N16.2bn annually,” adding that absence of insects can give one-fifth more yields to farmers with financial value which could reach about N48bn.
It is hopeful that by the end of the year, the release would be completely available for commercial sales.
“We shall provide clear advantages associated with this variety and by December, after release completed, seeds multiplied and by 2020 it would be disseminated commercially through seeds producing companies,” he concluded.