The first Confined Field Trials (CFT) of the pod borer-resistant cowpea (Bt-cowpea) has proved to be very efficient, Dr Ibrahim Dzido Kwasi Atokple, the Project Coordinator of the CFT, has said.
He said he was optimistic that the national annual production of cowpea, the second most important grain legume after groundnut, could be increased to 30 per cent with the innovation.
Dr Atokple, speaking in a telephone interview with the GNA on Thursday in Tamale, said the evaluation test would be repeated for about two years.
He said concurrent with the CFT, the identified efficacious cowpea events/lines were backcrossed with one of the local commercial cowpea varieties called Sonogotra, which was released in 2008 by the Savanna Agriculture Research of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-SARI of (CSIR).
?The variety, Sonogotra is resistant to Strigagesnerioides, a parasitic weed on cowpea. Other advanced cowpea breeding lines with combined resistance to Striga and Aphids (insects) are also used in the backcrossing,? Dr Atokple said.
He said the aim was to maintain the food qualities and the yield potential of Sonogotra with the added traits of aphids and pod-borer resistance for increased productivity.
The Bt-Cowpea is among three others, cotton, rice and sweet potatoes, which had been cleared for confined field trials for purposes of research and evaluation to generate improved and high yielding farmer-preferred cowpea variety that is resistant to the Maruca, a pod borer insect.
He said the project sought to contribute to food security to improve the livelihoods of small holder farmers by reducing pods damage, promote grain quality and reduce seasonal crop losses estimated between 30 to 80 per cent due to the pod-borer infestation.
Dr Atokple said pod borer infestation was a major constraint to cowpea productionin Africa.
He said in the absence of resistance genes in the cowpea germplasm biothechnology, a new innovation, had identified a resistance gene from a bacteria species called Bacillus thuringensis.
?This has been transferred into the local cowpea variety to kill the pod borer and also reduce the harmful effects of many insecticide sprays the farmers are exposed to?, he explained.
Dr Atokple said the innovation was developed and evaluated through a joint public/private partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia, African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), Kenya and the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ghana, as well as other institutions in Nigeria and Burkina Faso.