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The Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria, has developed a variety of cowpea (beans) which is resistant to attacks by pod borers. The new variety of cowpea could significantly reduce the amount of wastage of beans stocks recorded on an annual basis in Nigeria, thus saving farmers in the country about ₦4.8 billion yearly, according to a report from newspaper Daily Trust. It will also provide a healthier alternative to combating the pest with toxic pesticides which could poison cowpea pods meant for human consumption.

Professor Mohammed Ishiyaku, Principal Investigator of the Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea Project for IAF Nigeria, unveiled the new variety recently. While speaking to journalists about the gains that could be made with the introduction of the modified crop, he alluded to the huge losses that the borers (also known by the generic name Maruca) had inflicted upon cowpea stocks in Nigeria over the years. He noted that in some cases, the extent of loss could amount to about 80 percent of harvested crops- a big problem for the country, considering the fact that it consumes more cowpea than any other country in the world.

“For several years, we could only lament using insecticide which cannot withstand Maruca, so the best approach is genetic improvement”, Prof. Ishiyaku said.

The new crop is also said to be an enhanced version of the traditional varieties in other respects, including having the potential of a 20 percent increase in yield, and the reduction of required number of sprays from eight times to two.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) estimates that Nigeria accounts for 4.5 million out of the 11 million hectares of cowpea harvested annually. However, a large amount of the harvest is destroyed by pests such as Maruca. Hopefully, the new variety of cowpea should play a part in reducing the extent of losses and provide more revenue for farmers.

The research which produced the genetically modified cowpea crop was carried out by the IAR in conjunction with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).

Prof. Ishiyaku said that the report of the research which has yielded the pod borer resistant cowpea would be submitted to the government by December 2017. He also disclosed that the new variety would be made available to Nigerian farmers the following year.

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This article was first published on 20th October 2016


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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