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Government releases Nigeria’s first transgenic food crop for commercialisation

By Igho Akeregha, Abuja Bureau
16 December 2019   |   4:02 am
The Federal Government has approved registration and release of a new Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea variety for commercialisation.

The Federal Government has approved registration and release of a new Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea variety for commercialisation.

National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Varieties, chaired by Mr. Oladosu Awoyemi, gave the approval at its 28th meeting in Ibadan at the weekend.

Scientists named the new cowpea variety, which was developed at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in collaboration with other partners under the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) SAMPEA 20-T.

PBR Cowpea event AAT709A was earlier granted environmental release approval by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), which confirmed that the product was safe for humans, livestock and the environment.

The approval paved way for its submission to the National Variety Release Committee for consideration and registration of the first variety containing the PBR Cowpea trait as a commercial crop in the country.

The newly registered SAMPEA 20-T is highly resistant to Maruca vitrata, a pest that causes up to 90 per cent yield loss in severe infestation cases. This new variety has an early maturing circle of 70 to 75 days with semi-erect growth habit.

It is insensitive to day-length and has medium large white seeds just as it is resistant to Striga and Alectra, two parasitic weeds.

The decision to release the variety means that farmers would now have access to the seed to help them significantly reduce the number of sprays they apply to crops from six to seven times to only two per cropping season and as a result realise better yields in quantity and quality.

It will also contribute to addressing the national cowpea demand deficit of about 500,000 tons and improve the national productivity average of 350kg per hectare.

A statement issued yesterday in Abuja by the IAR of ABU disclosed that during the Multi-locational Advanced Yield Trials conducted across Nigeria’s agro-ecologies, researchers found that SAMPEA 20-T has high stable grain yield across the test locations.

The minimum observed grain yield increase over the conventional cowpea varieties was 20 per cent, while the maximum was over 200 per cent.

The variety yielded over 2.9 tons of beans per hectare and over 3.0 tons of fodder per hectare.
Principal Investigator for the project and Executive Director, Institute for Agricultural Research, Zaria, Professor Mohammed Ishiyaku, said the on-station and on-farm trials demonstrated the superiority of SAMPEA 20-T relative to local, recently tested and released cowpea varieties and improved breeding lines.

“SAMPEA 20-T is high yielding, early maturing and resistant to Striga and Alectra, which are major constraint to cowpea production in most producing areas in Nigeria and other dry savanna regions,” he said.

Executive Director of AATF, Dr. Denis Kyetere, commended the Federal Government for releasing the new cowpea variety, saying it showed its commitment towards improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

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