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Improved cowpea varieties hit Nigeria’s savanna region
16 April 2010

Nigeria has released two new improved cowpea varieties to raise production and improve farmers’ incomes.

Cowpea seeds. Photo by IITA.
The varieties come at an opportune time when the country’s researchers are preparing for the 5th World Cowpea Research Conference to be held from 27 September to 1 October 2010 in Dakar, Senegal, to discuss the state of the art in global cowpea research.

The varieties—IT89KD-288 and IT89KD-391—were developed by scientists working at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, in collaboration with the Institute for Agricultural Research of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; the University of Maiduguri, Borno; and the Agricultural Development Programs of Borno, Kaduna, Kano, and Katsina States.

Both varieties have proven superiority over the current improved lines being cultivated and aim to overcome the challenges faced by cowpea farmers in the country.

For instance, IT89KD-288 (now SAMPEA-11) is a dual-purpose cowpea variety with large white seeds and a rough seed coat. It has combined resistance to major diseases including septoria leaf spot, scab, and bacterial blight, as well as to nematodes, and tolerance to Nigeria’s strain of Striga gesnerioides (a parasitic weed that severely lowers yield).

“It also has a yield advantage of at least 80% over the local varieties,” said Dr Alpha Kamara, IITA Agronomist, who is leading efforts to rapidly disseminate the varieties to farmers.

The nematode-resistant variety is an equally good candidate for sowing in cereals or as a relay crop with maize in the moist and dry savanna zones, as well as for high grain production in the dry season.

Scientists recommend that the variety be planted in mid July in the Sudan savanna, early to mid-August in the northern Guinea savanna, and by the end of August in the southern Guinea savanna. However, where there is certainty of rains up till the end of October, IT89KD-288 can be planted in September.

IT89KD-391 (now SAMPEA-12) is also a dual-purpose cowpea variety but it has medium-to-large brown seeds with a rough seed coat. These are preferred seed characteristics for commercial production in northeast Nigeria.

“IT89KD-391 is a welcome improvement over SAMPEA 7, Ife brown, IT90K-76, and IT90K-82-2 which are the main improved brown-seeded varieties available. It has been tested extensively in this area and is well accepted by the farmers,” said Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe, IITA Extension/Dissemination Specialist.

“The variety performs well as a sole crop and an intercrop. It could also be planted as a relay crop with maize in the Guinea savannas,” he added.

Several on-station and on-farm trials have shown that IT89KD-391 (SAMPEA 12) produces double the yields of local cultivars.

It will be recalled that in 2008, Nigeria released a Striga-resistant improved cowpea variety (IT97K-499-35). Currently, efforts are being made through the project on legumes funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to make available seeds of these improved varieties by setting up community-based seed production systems.

Dr Kamara said, “The demand for these improved varieties is high because of their superior yields and their acceptability by consumers.”

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For more information, please contact:

Dr Alpha Yaya Kamara, a.kamara@cgiar.org
Savannah Systems Agronomist

Dr. Hakeem Ajeigbe, H.Ajeigbe@cgiar.org
Extension/Dissemination Specialist

Jeffrey T. Oliver, o.jeffrey@cgiar.org
Corporate Communications Officer (International)

Godwin Atser, g.atser@cgiar.org
Corporate Communications Officer (West Africa)

IITA - Headquarters
Ibadan, Nigeria

About IITA
Africa has complex problems that plague agriculture and people's lives. We develop agricultural solutions with our partners to tackle hunger and poverty. Our award winning research for development (R4D) is based on focused, authoritative thinking anchored on the development needs of sub-Saharan Africa. We work with partners in Africa and beyond to reduce producer and consumer risks, enhance crop quality and productivity, and generate wealth from agriculture. IITA is an international non-profit R4D organization established in 1967, governed by a Board of Trustees, and supported primarily by the CGIAR.