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Genetically modified cowpea seed may be available for farmers in 2020 – NGO

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African Agricultural Technology Foundation (ATF), says the Pot Borer Resistant (PBR) variety cowpea seeds may likely be commercialised for farmers by 2020 planting season.

Dr Issoufou Abdourhamane, the Regional Head of Africa of  ATF made this known in an interview with the Nigeria News Agency on Wednesday in Abuja.

Abdourhamane said this was feasible because the foundation had already multiplied the seeds and would be working with seed companies to get the seed commercialised to farmers.

“As a new variety, the PBR Cowpea variety had to pass through what is called the National Variety Performance Trial.

“Presently, the PBR cowpea variety is being tried in 15 locations across the country in accordance with the guidelines provided by the National Variety Release Committee.’’

Abdourhmane, who is also Head of Cowpea unit of the AATF in Nigeria, said the foundation was looking at the agronomy performance of the variety in different agro-ecological zones of Nigeria.

“From the forest unit area to the Sahel including Katsina and down to the South.

“We need to show evidence in this cropping season,’’ he said.

He said the trial of the PBR cowpea in different locations across the country in the 2019, planting season was necessary  to provide data to the National Variety Release Committee.

According to him, the committee is also saddled with the responsibility of analysing the data generated before giving the approval for the release to farmers.

“The PBR cowpea variety, which thrives in an environment infected with maruca, insect pest of legumes can only be beneficial as long as the cropping area is duly infected with this pest.

“In agriculture, you need a variety which is resistant only if the disease of the insect has presence. If you don’t have the insect or disease, don’t bother breeding.

“In all the areas infected with maruca, the insect pest, we can double the yield because we have the resistance,’’ Abdourhmane said.

According to him, the PBR cowpea variety can bolster Nigeria’s economy with its yield.

“Imagine what just 10 per cent increase in yield can do for the economy.

“Nigeria produces about 5.1million tonnes, take 10 per cent of that in kilograms and multiply by a price of the kilogram, you will see how many millions is injected into the economy each year.

“That is one way to look at the economic impact financially,’’ he said.

Abdourhmane said that improved nutrition and improved balanced diet for the low income earners was another way of looking at the impact of the new variety economically.

“If you have improved nutrition, you have a healthy population and will automatically have a healthy work force.

“If you also have improved food security, that means less dependence outside. You cannot put monetary value on this,’’ ’’ he said.

According to Abdourhmane, almost 20 per cent of cowpea consumed in Nigeria was imported yet; the country produces more than 50 to 60 per cent of the world cowpea and in Africa.

“It is a huge market, most of the millionaires from the north became rich through the cowpea trade and cowpea is very important in some regions.

“But in spite of the importance of cowpea, its yield is too low,’’ he said.

He attributed the low yield to insect pressure, saying people only saw cowpea pores, “which are not fit for consumption forgetting that they were caused by the maruca insect.’’

Abdourhmane attributed to the fact that cowpea had no resistance to these insects, which caused the flowers to abort.

He said during exportation, Nigerian bean were often rejected because they were loaded with pesticides.

“The residual level of pesticides in Nigerian beans exceeded the limit required.

He exportation of cowpea, which was lost but could be recovered, “is a huge market and PBR cowpea gives that hope’’.

“But one of the benefits of the PBR cowpea is that instead of spraying 10 times, we advise farmers to spray just twice, meaning that the pesticide level is reduced.

“This also eliminates the pesticide residual in the crop.’’

Abdourhmane said that the new genetically modified bean “is safe as any other bean’’.

Edited by Grace Yussuf

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