Nigeria develops Maruca-resistant cowpea to reduce farm loss, says a bio-technologist

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Abuja, March 18, 2013 (NAN) The Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria, has developed Maruca-resistant cowpea to reduce farm loss, Mrs Rose Gidado, a bio-technologist, said.

Gidado, Head, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) Unit of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Monday.

She said that the feat was an activity under the Maruca-Resistant Cowpea project.

NAN reports that the Maruca-resistant cowpea project is a public-private partnership coordinated by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to develop improved varieties of cowpea that can withstand the pod borer (Maruca vitrata), and enhance farmers’ grains and fodder produce.

Maruca vitrata is a major pest that inflicts severe damage to cowpea. In severe infestations, yield losses of between 70 per cent and 80 per cent have been reported.

``Although we have many other insects that cause a lot of losses but Maruca is the most dangerous.

`` It is a threat to the farmers; and so that is why the maruca was chosen.

``The technology developers and our own people here in Zaria chose to modify the beans for maruca resistance because farmers incur a lot of losses.

``When beans are flowery, the maruca lever comes up and eats up the flower and you know the flower is what is important; it is what becomes the seeds later.

``Once the flower is destroyed, then we don’t have anything. ’’

According to her, the maruca-resistant cowpea project was a project that started in 2008.

Gidado said the confined field trial of the cowpea was in its fourth year.

She said that the developers expected to have the first maruca-resistant cowpea in 2017, subject to approval by regulatory agencies.

Gidado observed that genetic modification could also be exploited to increase the nutritional composition of cowpea in terms of protein, micronutrients and vitamins.

She expressed the hope that the project would lay the foundation for developing new value-added cowpea products. (NAN)

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