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Farmers laud IAR’s maruca resistance cowpea variety in Kano

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Enduring the cultivation of conventional cowpea with limited yielding capacity, farmers in Kano expressed joys with the new improved cowpea variety (sampea-20T) modified to resist the persistence attack of pod borer insect (Maruca vitrata), a deadly threat growers had to contend with over the years.

Sharing their success stories at a brownfield day organized by the Institute of Agricultural Research, (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in Tudun Wada Dankade village, Tudun Wada local government of Kano, the farmers said the successful performance of the new technology 70 days after the plot demonstration of cowpea-20T in their community has justified their choice to embrace the first biotechnology product.

Mallam Mu’azu Abba, a cowpea farmer in Tudun Wada Dankade, who narrated how cowpea-20T changed years of unprofitable harvest, contended the introduction of maruca resistance cowpea is a life-changing intervention. Mu’azu explained that after embracing the improved variety, he had harvested 20 bags of 100kg of cowpea per hectare as against the traditional eight bags of 100kg per hectare.

Against the usual practice, Mallam Mu’azu told journalists how the cultivation of the improved variety reduces cost and risk of applying chemicals spray to crops to eliminate the constant threat of pod borer and other insects.

“I was introduced to the new improved cowpea some years back by the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) during a one day workshop. After that, we were shown how to cultivate the new seed and apply all the methods by the expert. Now, we know how to overcome the threat of maruca on our cowpea. We now understand that within 70 days with the right method farmers can have high yield on their cowpea”. Mu’azu narrated.

Another farmer, Abubakar Illiasu who expressed delight on the introduction of the Genetically Modified cowpea (sampea-20T) developed by IAR, mentioned successes recorded on his plot during the field trial. Abubakar explained that the new variety has shown evidence to resist any form of attack six months after harvest without applying preservatives.

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“Let me thank the IAR for this wonderful opportunity to assist us end the problem of maruca on our cowpea. Before now, farmers growing the conventional cowpea had suffered huge loss due to low yield. The economic loss is because of an insect that would damage more than half of the crops. With the successful outcome of this demonstration, we are convinced the GMO is safe and reliable to grow.

“We cannot spray twice instead of five times and this will reduce the danger of too much chemical on the crop and the effect on we farmers spraying it. The scientists have proved to us that we can now grow cowpea in any season and it can only take 70 days within which the new seed germinates and is ready for harvest,” Abubakar noted.

On his part, a 70-year-old cowpea farmer at the field day equally revealed Alhaji Yahaya Umaru applauded the IAR for easing the years of farmers suffering owing to prolonged delimitation of outputs. Alhaji Yahaya expressed satisfaction that the new down will bring to an end long deprivation of maximum yield capacity henceforth.

“We can now see for ourselves that this new variety is for real and it can change what we are used to in terms of low yield because of attack and damage of insects. We now know that with this new variety produced by IAR, we can have three to five multiplication of what we are used to with the ordinary conventional cowpea. We are fully aware and accept the GMO product of cowpea because we are satisfied it is safe for consumption and environment,” Yahaya stressed.

Sampea-20T is the latest improved cowpea variety developed by the Institute for Agricultural Research, (IAR) with support from African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to elicit new paradigm shifts in cultivation and harvest of cowpea, targeted at improving food security in Nigeria.

The new variety which is the first Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) cowpea produced by IAR have shown sufficient evidence to resist Maruca, after a series of field demonstrations on the efficacy on the environment, consumption safety and non-target organism.

IAR trial manager on the sampea-20 project, Dr. Mohammad Lawan Umar explained that IAR embarked on the confined trial of sampea-20 with support from AATF to produce a widely acceptable biotechnology solution after similar efforts adopted in Ghana and Burkina-Faso yielded no significant result.

Explaining the scientific efficacy of the biotechnology globally as exemplified on sampea-20T, Dr Mohammad emphasized that Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) which involves organisms whose genome has been engineered through laboratory trial to withstand pod borer on field. He added that IAR had recorded tremendous success and evidence-based account on cowpea-20T, having after its demonstration

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Dr. Mohammad reassured farmers of the availability of the improved seed for commercial and other value chains and disclosed IAT is presently reaching an agreement with reputable seed companies on multiply production of the seed.

A representative of AATF, Dr. Ijeoma Akaogu reaffirmed the commitment of the foundation to sustain support and transformation of small scale farmers’ livelihood with appropriate agricultural technologies that will deliver farmers productivity and profitability.

Dr. Akaogu said “AATF is grateful for the transformative impacts that have been generated through the outcome of the partnership with IAR and the release of the PBR cowpea variety (sampea 20T) which is resistant to legume pod borer, early maturity (70-75 days maturity), required only 2 a c CC CC CC CC CC CC within a season, produces white medium size seeds and enhances yield by up to 20 per cent.

“This means that this improved cowpea variety brings true joy to farmers and enables them to make more money which they can use to expand their farms, pay for the children’s education, buy other basic needs and pay for healthcare services,” Dr. Akaogu said.

Nigeria is the largest producer of cowpea in Africa. But its production and productivity are largely limited by several constraints, prominent among the predicament is, the threat of maruca attack, a major cause of farmers loss, amounting to almost 80 per cent yield loss.

The introduction of the new variety will not only change the farmer’s narrative but also improve the country’s food security.


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