UCC develops high yielding drought and disease resilient cowpea varieties

By
Afedzi Abdullah, GNA

Cape Coast, Sept. 19, GNA – A team of
researchers from the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, University of
Cape Coast (UCC) has developed eight different varieties of cowpea as part of
its “Cowpea Project”.

The varieties, which are more drought and
disease resilient and high yielding are expected to be released to seed
production companies for onward distribution to farmers in Ghana after it had
been certified and approved by the National Seed Council (NSC).

The UCC Cowpea Project, which is funded by the
International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
(ITPGRFA) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), is being carried out in
some communities in the Northern and Southern parts of Ghana. 

Collaborators for the project are the Savannah
Agricultural Research (SARI) and Plant Genetic Resources Research Institutes
(PGRRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ministry
of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and the University of Virginia, USA.

However, at the first stage of the
certification and approval procedures, which was the inspection for release of
the newly developed cowpea varieties, the committee members of National
Varietal Release and Registration Committee by consensus, selected four of the
eight varieties.

They would, thus, submit a report to the
Director of Crop Service who would in turn prepare and present a dossier to the
Minister of Agriculture and finally receive approval from the National Seed
Council.

The Principal Investigator, Professor
Aaron  Asare, a Plant Biotechnologist at
the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology explained that the team
was motivated to develop and select striga, rust, viral and drought resistant
as well as high yielding and early maturing cowpea genotype for farmer
cultivation in wider agro-ecological zones in Ghana to meet consumer needs.

He said cowpea production in the country was
very low in spite of the high consumption of the crop.

Therefore, he said developing a variety that
was adaptable to the coastal savannah for farmer cultivation would complement
production in the three Northern Regions where striga infection and drought
were major challenges for farmers.

He said the nutritional value of the cowpea
crop was comparatively very healthy adding that, “Cowpea is consumed in most
homes in Ghana and it is common to find people patronising waakye or gari and
beans”

Prof. Asare said the new varieties have a
short maturity period and they could be cultivated at least two times in a
year.

He explained that in terms of climate and
land, Ghana had the right climatic condition and adequate land for the
cultivation of cowpea to meet the demands of the nation and also for export.

“Ghana has a wide range of agro-ecological
zone, which has not been exploited for cowpea production. Given the needed
support, the University of Cape Coast through this project can help the nation
produce enough cowpea throughout the year,” he stated.

This, according to him, would contribute
towards food security and poverty reduction in line with the Government’s
“Planting for Food and Jobs” initiative.

Professor Richard Akromah, a member of the
National Varietal Release and Registration Council commended UCC and the
researchers for the good work done and encouraged them to work with seed
companies to rapidly increase the number of seeds and make them available to
farmers.

He also advised them to come up with a
production guide to educate users and farmers about the agronomic practices so
as to achieve maximum benefits.

He explained that the four varieties were
selected based on yield, value for cultivation and above they had a
representative attributes of the other four varieties.

Some of the participants at the inspection
workshop including farmers, were full of praise for the University and the
researchers and said their effort would ensure food sufficiency in the nation
and also improve the livelihood of farmers.

GNA

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