The National Varietal Release and Registration Committee (NVRRC) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), has approved another batch of three new varieties of cowpeas for the Northern part of the country.
These add to the four that were approved couple of weeks ago for the southern part.
The new varieties which are expected to be released onto the market for cultivation and consumption are not only resistant to striga, parasitic weeds, which often attacked the crops leading to low yields, and root knots, but also drought tolerance and adaptable to climate change variability.
Members of the Committee made the approval after inspecting the field trials of the new varieties of the cowpeas at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI) station at Manga in the Bawku Municipality of the Upper East Region.
They were jointly released by a group of Research Scientists drawn from the CSIR-SARI and the College of Agriculture and Natural Science of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) as the lead institution, Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute of Ghana, the University of Virginia in the United States of America and MoFA.
The approved varieties of the cowpeas are expected to be submitted to the MOFA and would be subsequently placed on the National Seed Bank and the National Seed Catalogue.
Dr Francis Kusi, a Senior Research Scientist of SARI in charge of the Manga Station, who led the team of the NVRRC and some Research Scientists to the trial farms, said the new varieties of cowpea released would benefit farmers across the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions including some southern parts of the country.
He explained that the released varieties were not only striga and drought resistant but were also high yielding and early maturing genotypes that farmers could cultivate widely in both the northern and southern zones in the country and to meet consumer needs.
Dr Kusi who said the new cowpeas varieties approved by the NVRRC were selected based on farmer and consumer participatory rigorous evaluation activities, indicated that they had the greatest potentials of increasing cowpea production by 30 per cent.
“This will not only provide affordable protein-rich foods but also create jobs to generate income to improve livelihoods in both rural and urban poor communities particularly women farmers. Plant breeders will also make use of available cowpea genetic resources for continuous improvement of the crop to sustain the cowpea industry in Ghana”, he indicated.
Dr Kusi who stated that the Cowpea germplasm were obtained from the SARI-CSIR and local farmers in the Ashanti Region of Ghana as well as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria, indicated that the northern zone trails was not only conducted at Manga SARI station in the Upper East Region, but also at Silbelle-Tumu of the Upper West Region.
Professor Richard Ankromah, a Senior Lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), speaking on behalf of Mr Seth Osei-Akoto, the Acting Director, Crop Services at MoFA, commended the Research teams and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for funding the project.
He noted that one of the major factors affecting food security in the country particularly Northern Ghana was the striga plant disease, drought and other crop related diseases and expressed optimism that with the new scientific discovery, it would help curb the problem.
Professor Aaron Tettey Asare, the Head of Department of UCC in charge of Biotechnology and leader of the research team, indicated that about 70 per cent of Ghanaian’s population consume cowpea in different forms of foods making the country to import the legumes at high cost.
He said it was to help fill in the deficit and to save the country from using hard earned currencies in importing the leguminous crop that the project funded the research and indicated that the Northern Ecological zones were among the regions in the country with the greatest potentials to grow the crop in the country.