Agencies Team Up For Commercial Release Of PBR Cowpea

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By Ene Okwanihe, Abuja

The Government of President Muhammadu Buhari maintains that food security remains a key policy in the country. The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and the Africa Agricultural Technological Foundation (AATF) teamed up with the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) Zaria, Kaduna state North West Nigeria for the commercial release of the Pod Borer Resistant Variety Cowpea also known as SAMPEA 20-T to boost Cowpea production in the country.

To generate yields at economically viable scales for farmers, it has become necessary to use advanced technological tools like genetic engineering in crop production and the implementation of new technologies is also crucial.

The introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms to Agriculture to boost food production and its subsequent adoption in Nigeria could be seen as a welcome development.

It is a known fact that the average Nigerian Farmer spends a fortune on pesticides, these pesticides not only eat deep into the farmers pockets but also have negative health implications on the farmer and soil if not properly applied.

Some Misconceptions about the technology needed to be cleared, Misconceptions like when a GMO crop is planted in the soil that the soil would no longer be viable to plant other crops, that GMO crops cannot be planted side by side with other crops because it does allow them to grow and produce.

So, Voice of Nigeria paid a visit to one of the demonstration fields in Kuje area Council of the FCT to clear the speculations.

On arrival on the field, Melon has been planted on the same soil where the PBR Cowpea was harvested from in the 2021 farming season which strikes out the speculation that the soil would no longer be viable.

At a closer look, some of the Cowpea residues from the harvest have grown and produced alongside the melon which is clear evidence that it can produce alongside other crops.

Mr. Olaseinde Idowu Mustapha is the Zonal Director and Zonal programme Manager Federal Capital Territory Agricultural Development Project, attest to this saying that PBR Cowpea was subjected to the same agricultural practice like the other variety and the PBR performed way better.

“The PBR also, they didn’t apply any fertilizer, we didn’t apply anything, we allowed it to undergo the normal agricultural practices that we do. The irony is that this one produced four times our own. So, I see it as ideal for the program of national food security.”

According to Mustapha who is an extension worker, farmers who saw the high yields from the pilot fields are queuing for the PBR seeds while reeling out its advantages.

“It has a short period, within 45 days, averagely cowpea will take 90 days, during this 45 days it pods and you can harvest and with our experience of last year you can harvest as much as 4 times, it’s amazing. Farmers were overwhelmed in fact my office is daily visited by other farmers who have heard of the laudable harvest that we had last year”

On the economic viability of the PBR Cowpea, one of the benefitting farmers Ndama Dantani speaks on his experience with the PBR Cowpea, particularly in the area of yields.

“There is differences between the one I planted before because the one I planted before when I start plant it, these insects will be disturbing it but this one, during the planting to the harvesting I did not apply any chemical to prevent any insect coming and I did not experience any insect from the planting day to the harvesting which is 45 days”

“It was very smooth they gave us in a sachet but from the harvest I can see the differences because even the ones that we buy from the market I buy one mudu. Before to get even a bag is a problem but this one even presently I reserve it” he added

Having spoken to the farmers, Voice of Nigeria engaged the programme manager PBR Cowpea, Africa Agricultural Technological Foundation Ijoema Akaogu on the progress of the PBR Cowpea and what the future holds for it.

Akaogu buttressed Mr. Mustapha’s point that there was high demand for the PBR Cowpea seeds by Nigerian farmers.

“Yes they were high demands for the seeds, that in less than one week after the product launch we sold out all the seeds that were produced”

Due to the demand and for them to be able to meet these demands she said 7 more seed companies have been licensed in addition to the previous 3 to produce the PBR seeds for farmers.

When asked if there’s a future where we get to see other varieties of the PBR Cowpea Akaogu said the second generation of the PBR Cowpea is being developed known as the PBR Cowpea extra.

“we are currently developing the second generation of the PBR Cowpea known as the PBR Cowpea Extra where we’ll have the 2 gene system for more effective durability of the product because yes as people continue to use the product, as there is wide adoption there tend to be breakdown of resistance just as we have in the use of drugs”

“And like you rightly said, Maruca is not the only pest, there is also this storage pest, it’s damaging pest called the Bruchids , so it’s still a work in progress, we are actually developing a concept note to that, talking with our partners , our donors because it’s a major challenge”

There is no doubt that this technology has come to stay and more farmers are buying into the technology.

With the current demand for its seed by farmers, the future of the PBR Cowpea in Nigeria is looking up.

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