A team of researchers from the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, University of Cape Coast (UCC) has developed eight different varieties of cowpea as part of its “Cowpea Project”.
The varieties, which are more drought and disease resilient and high yielding are expected to be released to seed production companies for onward distribution to farmers in Ghana after it had been certified and approved by the National Seed Council (NSC).
The UCC Cowpea Project, which is funded by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), is being carried out in some communities in the Northern and Southern parts of Ghana.
Collaborators for the project are the Savannah Agricultural Research (SARI) and Plant Genetic Resources Research Institutes (PGRRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and the University of Virginia, USA.
However, at the first stage of the certification and approval procedures, which was the inspection for release of the newly developed cowpea varieties, the committee members of National Varietal Release and Registration Committee by consensus, selected four of the eight varieties.
They would, thus, submit a report to the Director of Crop Service who would in turn prepare and present a dossier to the Minister of Agriculture and finally receive approval from the National Seed Council.
The Principal Investigator, Professor Aaron Asare, a Plant Biotechnologist at the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology explained that the team was motivated to develop and select striga, rust, viral and drought resistant as well as high yielding and early maturing cowpea genotype for farmer cultivation in wider agro-ecological zones in Ghana to meet consumer needs.
He said cowpea production in the country was very low in spite of the high consumption of the crop.
Therefore, he said developing a variety that was adaptable to the coastal savannah for farmer cultivation would complement production in the three Northern Regions where striga infection and drought were major challenges for farmers.
He said the nutritional value of the cowpea crop was comparatively very healthy adding that, “Cowpea is consumed in most homes in Ghana and it is common to find people patronising waakye or gari and beans”
Prof. Asare said the new varieties have a short maturity period and they could be cultivated at least two times in a year.
He explained that in terms of climate and land, Ghana had the right climatic condition and adequate land for the cultivation of cowpea to meet the demands of the nation and also for export.
“Ghana has a wide range of agro-ecological zone, which has not been exploited for cowpea production. Given the needed support, the University of Cape Coast through this project can help the nation produce enough cowpea throughout the year,” he stated.
This, according to him, would contribute towards food security and poverty reduction in line with the Government’s “Planting for Food and Jobs” initiative.
Professor Richard Akromah, a member of the National Varietal Release and Registration Council commended UCC and the researchers for the good work done and encouraged them to work with seed companies to rapidly increase the number of seeds and make them available to farmers.
He also advised them to come up with a production guide to educate users and farmers about the agronomic practices so as to achieve maximum benefits.
He explained that the four varieties were selected based on yield, value for cultivation and above they had a representative attributes of the other four varieties.
Some of the participants at the inspection workshop including farmers, were full of praise for the University and the researchers and said their effort would ensure food sufficiency in the nation and also improve the livelihood of farmers.