A new beans (cowpea) variety developed by researchers at the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria in conjunction with their counterparts working with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is to save Nigerian farmers about N4.8 billion annually.
This was revealed recently by Professor Mohammed Ishiyaku, the Principal Investigator of the pod-borer (Maruca) resistant cowpea project in Talata Mafara, Zamfara State, one of the three trial sites in the country.
“In severe cases, the insect pest causes about 80% yield loss to harvests. For several years, we can only lament using insecticides which cannot withstand maruca, so the best approach is genetic improvement,” the lead researcher disclosed.
He said apart from monetary gains, other expected benefits of using the genetically modified pod-borer resistant cowpea include: 20% increase in yield, reduction of spray from eight times to two, better health and environment for farmers and end users.
“Assuming a farmer spends N1,000 per bottle of insecticide and he uses eight bottles per hectare, that amounts to N8,000. If the spraying is reduced from eight times to two times by the new variety, about N6,000 is saved. And I know that about eight million hectares of beans are cultivated by farmers in Nigeria. So, you know what that means,” the professor explained.
Speaking on behalf of the Executive Director of IAR, Prof. Ayo Abubakar, the Assistant Director, Extension, Monitoring and Evaluation, Prof. Muktar Mahmmud, said “Maruca is one of the biggest problems of cowpea production for a long time and we are happy that a resistant variety has been developed and our farmers will be better off.”
One of the farmers who participated in the final trials, Malam Mahawuya, said from what he and other five trial farmers experienced, the variety should be quickly released to farmers in the cowpea producing zone so as to stop beans importation from neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile, Prof. Ishiyaku while responding to questions from newsmen said the report of the research would be submitted to the government in December 2017 and by 2018 the variety would be made available to Nigerian farmers.
The Media Director of AATF, Mr. Abu Umaru, said the project coordinated by AATF and monitored by the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) is working simultaneously in four countries in Africa namely; Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Malawi.