Ahead of the commercialisation of the Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) cowpea, Nigeria cowpea farmers would be trained on how best to plant the new variety, while the seed companies would be trained on seed multiplication.
Recall that the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) had granted an environment release PBR Cowpea which was developed by the Institute of Agriculture Research (IAR), Zaria, and the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF).
The Regional Coordinator of the Africa Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), Dr Issoufou Abdourrahman Kolo disclosed this to Tribune Online in an interview in Abuja.
Dr Kolo also said that this new cowpea variety, if adopted fully by Nigerian farmers would increase yield by over 50 per cent, and save Nigeria billions of naira spent annually on cowpea importation.
“There is a program for training not only the farmers but the seed companies because Nigeria has some seed companies who produce cowpea seeds, so we have a program for training them on how to handle the cowpea and produce high-quality seeds for farmers. We are also going to train extension workers on PBR Cowpea and biotechnology”, Dr Kolo said.
On the expectations from the new cowpea variety, Kolo said “wherever Maruca vitrata (a pest that destroys cowpea on-field) is a very big problem, what we expect is to get a tremendous yield. To boost cowpea production.
People don’t know what is going on in agriculture market, we are not talking about small money, we are talking about hundreds of millions of Naira per year saved in this country and injected into the economy at the farmers level. I was afraid to say billions of Naira, but the reality is that it is billions of Naira if you can increase cowpea production.
“Wherever Maruca is a problem, the minimum yield you can increase is 50 per cent in that area with the new cowpea. So it is not an academic business, it is an economic problem that we are facing, and we want to solve it, it is a serious economic problem. So people think research is just for academics, no, research is linked to basic economic constraint in the society is facing, if a country cannot link its agricultural research to the basic problems the society is facing, then there is no agricultural research, that is purely academic, then it is useless for the society, but this one is not academic, it is a serious economic and food challenge situation”.
He said National Variety Performance Trials would commence on different locations across the country soon which is part of the process to get the final approval to release the cowpea to Nigerian farmers to plant and to seed companies to multiply.
“The trial would be held in all agro-ecology zones in Nigeria, from the Sahel to the humid forest to see how the cowpea would perform, and the trial would be in more than 12 locations this season. We will also go on farmers field to test the cowpea and test it with real farmers, and we will be organising field day for everybody to see how the Cowpea grows”, Kolo added.