The Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), in Zaria has developed a new cowpea variety that would inject N48 billion into Nigeria’s economy annually.
Prof. Ishaq Mohammed-Faguci, Lead Scientist, IAR ‘Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea Research Team’, who made this known on Thursday in Zaria, said one of the main research efforts of IAR over the past 10 years had been to combat the menace of a destructive insect that affects cowpea production in the country.
“The insect is called ‘Maruca pod borer’ and is known to cause up to 80 per cent yield loss in cowpea fields. The research efforts of IAR had yielded positive results.
“The results of scientific efforts applied in modern techniques of genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, has led to the development of cowpea variety that can protect itself against destructive effects of the pod borer.
“This now makes it possible for farmers to grow cowpea in their fields with very minimal insecticide sprays. Hitherto, farmers can only control the insect in their fields through heavy and frequent spray of insecticides.
“The spray ranges between five and eight sprays depending on the intensity of insect infestation,” he noted.
He further said insecticides were expensive for poor farmers, adding that it had been shown scientifically to be toxic, dangerous to human health and unsafe for the environment adding that they cause death and pollution of water bodies and the surrounding environments.
“The benefit of this variety to Nigerian farmers and consumers is that, instead of eight sprays of insecticides, this new variety can be produced with only two sprays, thereby saving the farmers around four to six sprays.
“The total benefit to the country as a result of savings from reduced insecticide usage, if this variety is grown on one million hectare out of the 3.8 million hectares planted to cowpea in Nigeria, translates to over N16.2 billon annually.
“In addition, this variety has about 20 per cent inherent yield advantage over many of the conventional cowpea varieties.
“The annual economy benefits from that is estimated to be N48 billion annually, if one million hectares are planted to this insect resistant variety assuming one tonne of cowpea cost N120,000,” he added.
Mohammed-Faguci explained that in view of the fact that this variety was developed using genetic engineering techniques, it had to undergo scientific evaluation to access its similarities to the conventional varieties for food, feed and safety to the environment.
The scientist added that it would be allowed to be grown commercially by December 2019.