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Farmers Share Experiences Growing Maruca-Resistant Cowpea

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    In 2019, the Nigerian government approved commercialisation of a transgenic cowpea variety. The early maturing variety is named SAMPEA 20-T. It resists Maruca vitrata, a notorious pod borer – a destructive insect pest limiting productivity of cowpea (beans) farmers in Nigeria. Crop loss can be 80 per cent in severe infestation, and farmers spread chemicals up to 6-10 times before a reasonable harvest. SAMPEA 20-T was developed by Professor Mohammad Faguji Ishiyaku, a plant breeder and his team at Nigeria’s Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in partnership with the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN); Australia’s national science agency, and the Danforth Plant Science Centre under the coordination of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and funded by the United State Agency for International Development (USAID).The gene, Cry1Ab (Bt), was provided by the Bayer Crop Science on royalty-free humanitarian basis to guarantee seed affordability by smallholder farmers in Nigeria. But COVID-19 affected the plan to upscale the production of the beans (cowpea) in 2019. However, through the ‘seeing is believing’ approach, the IAR Zaria gave the seeds to farmers to compare the conventional cowpea with the transgenic SAMPEA 20-T for preference ranking. The outcome produced massive interest among farmers across the states that planted the variety because of the yield (which on average, is 40% more than the conventional variety’s harvest), resistant to not only pod borer (Maruca) pest but even to striga – another lethal  weed that destroys crops like maize, cowpeas and other legumes. In Mokwa, a major cowpea growing area of Niger State, two farmers are making huge progress with the legume. Mr Shittu Yellow and Yusuf Ahmed in their 30s, started production in 2020 and since then, they have found the variety to be  an effective solution to the problems of pod borer (Maruca vitrata) infestation, striga and late maturing. Last season, IAR Zaria planned to give seed to 2,000 farmers across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory to up-scale but could not realise the volume of the seed required for all the farmers it trained. But with the launch of a spin-off company for the production of foundation seed, farmers hope to have more access to seeds this coming season.
  • Date Posted :
    2022-01-23 08:45:21
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