New cowpea variety to be approved for commercial use

June 22, 2024
New cowpea variety to be approved for commercial use

A new cowpea (beans) variety developed by the Crop Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is awaiting approval for commercial use, researchers have said.

The new variety known as “Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea” is expected to help farmers reduce losses incurred during cultivation of the crop and boost the availability of cowpea locally.

Dr Daniel Osei Ofosu, a Research Scientist, explained that pest infestation had been a major setback for farmers who grew cowpeas in the country.

He mentioned “Maruca” as one of the “biggest insect pests” of cowpea, which made farmers lose about 80 percent of the crop on the field before harvest.

To that end, he said, the new cowpea variety had been engineered to be resistant to the insect “Maruca”.

“The newly engineered cowpea variety produces a natural toxin that kills Maruca but is harmless to us humans…The research has gone on for the last 12 years and we are close to commercialisation.

“Our hope is that when it comes onto the market, it will reduce the cost of cowpea (beans) and help us to be able to export to other countries,” the Scientist stated.

Inadequate production of cowpea in Ghana compels farmers and consumers to rely on imports from , , and — a situation, Dr. Ofosu said, did not “auger well for food sovereignty” in the country.

He, therefore, expressed confidence that the new cowpea variety would help to improve import and challenges when commercialised.

The Research Scientist said the new variety had approval from the Biosafety Authority pending that of the Seed Council.

“…Until the Seed Council gives that approval, we cannot tell when it [the Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea] will get into the hands of farmers.

“We were hoping that [the approval] will come early enough for us to be able to multiply for our farmers to grow but unfortunately the cowpea season will start in July…and even if we get approval today, it will be impossible to produce enough for the farmers.

“We are hoping that from the next season, farmers will be able to grow this transformational cowpea and consumers will ultimately see the change in the prices of cowpea,” Dr Ofosu noted.

The Scientist debunked some myths about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Agriculture, stressing the need for more public education on the benefits of the technology.

“We know that the bad news has gone out ahead of the good news, but GMOs are safe once they have gone through all the regulatory processes.

“In Ghana, we have a robust regulatory process that is going to allow us to be able to harness this technology for the benefit of not only the scientist or the farmer but the consumers who eat these foods. It will reduce the cost of food and ensure that we do not rely on others for our food,” he stated.

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