N/R: Farmers adopt new cowpea variety (Songotra)

Farmers in northern Ghana are now embracing the cultivation of a newly improved variety of cowpea known as songotra (IT97K-499-35). This is because, a genetic modification for inbuilt resistance has been introduced into the crop and farmers would no longer loss their yields ranging from 20 to 80% due to the infestation of Maruca vitrata also known as podborer among the major insects causing the low production of cowpea in the area.

Presently, there are no known cowpea varieties that are resistant to the podborer, hence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa regularly spray 5-8 times within a season to control it and other insect pests infestations. It is in this regard that, Dr. Mumuni Abudulai, an Entomologist and a Principal Investigator at the CSIR- Savannah Agricultural Research Institute explained in an interview with Class news Mohammed Gadafi that, due to the cryptic nature of feeding inside flower buds, flowers and pods, the insecticide control for Maruca vitrata is not wholly effective.

According to him, with the advances in molecular breeding, it was thought that genetic modification for inbuilt resistance against this pest was the most viable option. Dr. Mumuni Abudulai said it is on the back of this that, a cowpea line, IT86D-1010 from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria, was genetically modified by TJ Higgens of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia to express the Cry1Ab protein encoded by the Cry1Ab gene.

He indicated that, after several years of testing of the transformed lines (7) in confined field trials (CFTs) Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Ghana through its Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) of Ahmed Bello University, Institutetut de l’Environnement et des Recherches Agricoles (INERA) and the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI) respectively, one of the transformed lines, event 709A, showed to be the most resistant to Maruca vitrata. The Maruca damage in this event was reduced by 98% and yield was improved four-fold compared to the parent line used for the transformation.

According to farmers from Nyankpala, Manga and Damongo in the northern region who participated in the evaluation of the crop on Wednesday, 4 July, under the farmers’ management conditions at the CFT of SARI confirmed the resistance in the transformed songotra to the pest. They compared the performance of the PBR cowpea (transformed songotra) to the conventional cowpea varieties. Meanwhile, the dossier for commercial release is currently being evaluated and Dr. Mumuni Abudulai assured that, the product will be released when the evaluation and the necessary regulatory procedures are completed.


by: Mohammed Gadafi, northstarfmonline.com _ mgadafi45@gmail.com

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