The project “Utilisation of wild relatives in the breeding of cowpea for improved adaptation to drought and heat”, is implemented by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria; Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso; Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRAN), Niger and National Center For Genetic Resources & Biotechnolgy (NACGRAB), Nigeria.
Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) is an important food security crop throughout large areas of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the drier areas of the Guinea, Sudan savannah up to the Sahel. It regularly suffers from considerable losses caused by pests and diseases. Although its tolerance to drought and heat is superior to most other crops, predictions for climate change in the region suggest that there is a need for germplasm with even greater levels of adaptation to these biotic and abiotic stresses. To enhance tolerance to these stresses this project aims to tap the genetic diversity found in the wild relatives of cowpea.
The main objective is to identify genotypes with superior drought and heat tolerance from existing pre-bred populations in which genes from cowpea wild relatives have been introgressed into the cultivated species. Tolerance to drought will be assessed under controlled conditions in the screen house whereas heat tolerance will be evaluated at field sites selected for this stress. Genotypes with superior adaptation will be crossed with elite germplasm and the progeny will be evaluated in the field in three countries: Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger. Strong links with extension services and farmers in these countries will ensure a high level of awareness of the new germplasm and encourage adoption of new varieties.