IITA Scientist speaks on the outcome of applying new tools in cowpea breeding
IITA Cowpea Breeder, Ousmane Boukar, has laid out the details of activities, challenges, and successes of the cowpea breeding project from 2016 to 2018. He outlined these in a presentation titled: “Applying new tools to cowpea genetic improvement,” which was part of the contract review seminar held at IITA-Ibadan on 11 March. He also spoke of plans for improvement in the future.
Boukar noted that, over the last three decades, global cowpea production grew at an average rate of 5%, with 3.5% annual growth in area and 1.5% growth in yield. This means that area expansion accounted for over 70% of the total growth during this period.
He also stated that insect pests such as aphids and the legume pod borer were major challenges to the cowpea breeding process. Other challenges encountered were diseases including bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases; parasitic weeds such as Striga and Alectra; and abiotic stresses of drought, heat, and low soil fertility. To combat these, various resistance controls were used, resulting in Striga, bacterial blight, aphid, and fungal disease resistance in areas around the Sahelian and Sudanian savannas, for short and medium grain-type cultivars with large white or brown grain. This was also true for medium and late-maturing, dual-purpose cultivars with large white or brown grain in the Guinea Savanna zone.
The objective of introducing new tools to cowpea breeding is to develop improved lines with high stable yield potential, resistance/tolerance to both biotic and abiotic diseases, good adaptation to monocropping and intercropping systems, and grain characteristics preferred by customers and processors. “In order to achieve breeding efficiency, the best area to focus on is breeding strategy and optimization, while for effectiveness, focusing on product design and adoption is important,” said Boukar.