Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Improved Cowpea “Selling Like Hotcakes”

Anyone doubting the desire among African farmers for improved seeds should look at what is happening with cowpea in Nigeria.

Cowpea is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most valuable crops and the region accounts for 70 percent of world production. It’s nutritious, it does well in hot and dry conditions, and it has the added benefit of releasing nitrogen that can replenish depleted soils.

But the problem with cowpea is that it is preyed upon by pests and diseases. At the 5th FARA Science Week, Alpha Kamara, an agronomist with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, discussed IITA’s progress in developing pest and striga-resistant cowpea.

“We’ve released new varieties in Nigeria and the Niger Republic and they are selling like hotcakes,” he said. “Every farmer that has produced seeds has completely sold out.”

As part of a broader effort to promote and raise awareness of new cowpea varieties, IITA is co-hosting the Fifth World Cowpea Research Conference in Dakar with the government of Senegal. The conference will take place from 27 September to 1 October 2010.

Scientists will discuss key constraints to cowpea production, share progress being made in advancing cowpea genomics, and consider the best ways to unlock cowpea's potential as a hedge against climate change, hunger, and poverty. For more information, visit

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