The University of Cape Coast as the lead institution in collaboration with its partners has developed three new Striga-resistant cowpea genotypes purposely for the three regions in the northern part of Ghana.
The partners are Savannah Agriculture Research Institute (SARI), the Plant Genetic Resources and Research Institute (PGRRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) as well as the University of Virginia, USA.
The three new cowpea genotypes, which have been recommended by the National Varietal Release and Registration Committee for approval, are resistant to all the known races of the parasitic weed, Striga gesnerioides in West Africa. Striga is a parasitic weed that infest and impose physiological stress to retard the growth and development of cowpea, leading to up to 100 % yield losses in the dry savannah agro-ecological zones of Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions of Ghana.
Improvement in the Newly Developed Cowpea Genotype
According to the Principal Investigator of the Cowpea Project, Dr. Aaron T. Asare, the newly developed cowpeas for the northern part of Ghana were improvement over existing varieties for bearing resistant gene to control all known races of Striga, not only in Ghana but in West Africa as a whole. He explained that “the newly developed cowpeas are also tolerant to drought, rust and viruses with early maturity and high yield traits. He indicated that, the newly developed cowpea would serve as vital genetic resource for further improvement of the crop in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in areas affected by the parasitic weed.
Prof. Asare said there were cost benefits which farmers would derive from cultivating the newly developed cowpeas because of their high yielding potential and adaptability to diverse ecological conditions especially in the dry savannah regions. Prof. Asare said the recommendation of the three candidate cowpeas for approval to be release as varieties to seed production companies and farmers was a great opportunity to improve the cowpea industry. He urged farmers to patronize the product when it was finally released to the market. He advised the youth to also venture into cowpea cultivation as a means of creating employment for them to earn a living. “We are grateful for what we have achieved together so far and we hope to do more to boost the cowpea industry,” he noted.
Appreciation to Partners
Prof. Asare thanked the NVRRC for endorsing three out of five candidates of cowpea that were presented for approval and subsequent release to farmers. “We have no iota of doubt concerning your excellent decisions, selections and recommendations that you have made to perfect the document processing in order to have our cowpea genotypes registered as varieties,” he expressed. He expressed appreciation to SARI and PGRRI for collaborating with UCC to achieve such a milestone adding that “SARI has been very generous by hosting our students for their research work”.
Solution to Striga Menace
Prof. Richard Akromah who led a team of the NVRRC to inspect the cowpea field at Bawku, said members of the committee were happy that a solution had been found to deal with the Striga menace which was causing huge losses to farmers in the northern sector of Ghana. “It’s been a problem, I have sent students here and I saw how they struggle with Striga so I am happy that materials are coming up,” he noted.
Prof. Akromah advised the researchers to have good fingerprint background on the newly developed cowpeas so that they could claim ownership to it. He reiterated the need for the researchers of the project to develop a user manual to serve as guide for farmers.
The cowpea project is an initiative by researchers from the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences with funding from International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).