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May 09, 2010

New cowpea varieties released

Two new cowpea varieties to raise production and improve farmers’ incomes have been developed by research institutions based in Nigeria. The varieties come just when the country’s researchers are finalizing their plans to attend the Fifth World Cowpea Research Conference to be held from 27 September to 1 October 2010 in Dakar, Senegal, to discuss the state of the art in cowpea research.

The varieties—IT89KD-288 and IT89KD-391—were developed by scientists working at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, in collaboration with the Institute for Agricultural Research of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; the University of Maiduguri, Borno; and the Agricultural Development Programs of Borno, Kaduna, Kano, and Katsina States.

Both varieties have proven superiority over the current improved lines being cultivated and aim to overcome the challenges faced by cowpea farmers in the country. For instance, IT89KD-288 (now SAMPEA-11) is a dual-purpose cowpea variety with large white seeds and a rough seed coat. It has combined resistance to major diseases including septoria leaf spot, scab, and bacterial blight, as well as to nematodes, and tolerance to Nigeria’s strain of Striga gesnerioides (a parasitic weed that severely lowers yield).

“It also has a yield advantage of at least 80% over the local varieties,” says Dr Alpha Kamara, IITA’s Agronomist, who is leading efforts to rapidly disseminate the varieties to farmers.

The nematode-resistant variety is an equally good candidate for sowing in cereals or as a relay crop with maize in the moist and dry savanna zones, as well as for high grain production in the dry season.

Scientists recommend that the variety be planted in mid July in the Sudan savanna, early to mid-August in the northern Guinea savanna, and by the end of August in the southern Guinea savanna. However, where there is certainty of rains up till the end of October, IT89KD-288 can be planted in September.

IT89KD-391 (now SAMPEA-12) is also a dual-purpose cowpea variety but it has medium-to-large brown seeds with a rough seed coat. These are preferred seed characteristics for commercial production in northeast Nigeria.

According to Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe, IITA Extension/Dissemination Specialist, “IT89KD-391 is a welcome improvement over SAMPEA 7, Ife brown, IT90K-76, and IT90K-82-2 which are the main improved brown-seeded varieties available. It has been tested extensively in this area and is well accepted by the farmers. The variety performs well as a sole crop and an intercrop. It could also be planted as a relay crop with maize in the Guinea savannas.” 

Several on-station and on-farm trials have shown that IT89KD-391 (SAMPEA 12) produces double the yields of local cultivars.

In 2008, Nigeria released a Striga-resistant improved cowpea variety (IT97K-499-35). Currently, efforts are being made through the project on legumes funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to make available seeds of these improved varieties by setting up community-based seed production schemes.

IITA

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