• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Nigeria approves Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea

Cowpea

The Federal Government of Nigeria has recently approved the Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea (PBR) (beans) developed by the Institute for Agricultural Research, (IAR) Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria for environmental release.

The approval was contained in a decision document issued by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) granting permit for the environmental release of the PBR Cowpea which has been genetically modified to resist the insect pest – Maruca Vitrata.

IAR in partnership with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) commenced the research to address the deadly Maruca Vitrata attacks on beans in 2009 after series of efforts to use conventional breeding methods failed to produce results.

Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, executive director, IAR, during the presentation of the GM beans summarised the process that led to the development of the PBR cowpea saying the decision to venture into genetic modification in cowpea breeding was as a result of pest infestation that has over the years made cowpea farming difficult as farmers get less for their efforts and even have their lives exposed to danger due to chemical spraying to keep the pest away.

“Cowpea is the most important food grain legume in Nigeria. The low yield of the crop in Nigeria is due to many constraints particularly pod boring insects which cause up to 90 percent yield loss in severe infestation cases,” Abubakar said.

The approval means the crop is safe and posed no harm to human and the environment and can now be submitted to the National Variety Release Committee for consideration and registration as a commercial crop in Nigeria.

The PBR Cowpea, by this development, becomes the first genetically modified food crop to be approved in the country.

The introduction will address the national cowpea demand deficit of about 500,000 tonnes and also improve the national productivity average of 350kg/hectare.

Abdourhamane Issoufou, country director, AATF said that since the mid-80s, cowpea scientists have declared maruca as the main limiting factor of cowpea production in Africa hence the intervention of the AATF based on its principles of providing access to appropriate technologies by small scale farmers.

“AATF was able to obtain access to the Cry1Ab gene used for this modification on humanitarian basis and worked with institutions in Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Malawi for the transformation. Today, Nigeria stands tall in the comity of nations for effectively managing and bringing to fruition this dream.

The research results have shown that the PBR-cowpea is safe for human and animals, completely resistant to Maruca; leads to yield increase of 20 percent with fewer sprays of chemical insecticides,” Issoufou said.

Also, Alex Akpa, acting director general, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) said that by the approval, Nigeria has registered her name among the global scientific community as a country capable of finding solutions to her challenges.

 

Josephine Okojie