The University has officially launched seven disease-resistant varieties of cowpea to boost production and also ensure food security.
The newly improved varieties are climate-resilient and high yielding cowpea genotypes adaptable to the forest, coastal and savannah areas of Ghana.
The seven are developed varieties are Asare-Moya, Kum-Zoya, Saka-Buro, Aluba-Kpole, Yor-Kpitio, UCC-Early and the Aduapa . These new varieties have a short maturity period and they could be cultivated at least two times in a year.
Disease Resistant Cowpea
Speaking at the launch, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Joseph Ghartey Ampiah described the outcome of the current research by UCC and its collaborators leading to the release of the new varieties of cowpea by the Minister of Food and Agriculture as a welcome news in response to the government’s “Planting for Food and Jobs” flagship programme. “These new varieties of cowpea have improved genetic traits including Striga-resistance, tolerance to viruses, rust, root rot, drought, and early maturity traits as well as dual-purpose use,’ he noted.
The Vice-Chancellor noted that the nutritional, socio-economic and agricultural importance of cowpea could not be over-emphasised. “The increasing population growth, hospitality industry, traditional and industrial processors and the School Feeding programme are emerging markets in Ghana, demanding increased cowpea production in the phase of the climate change phenomenon,” he explained. He said the breakthrough in the release of seven varieties of cowpea had come handy and timely.
Prof. Ampiah said the prevalence of the parasitic weed, Striga gesnerioides in the predominantly major cowpea production region of the dry Savannah Northern Ghana had been a serious threat to the cowpea industry due to losses. He said the introduction of these varieties would improve the production of the crop and create a buffer against further invasion of the parasitic weed.
The Vice-Chancellor noted that the cowpea project was one of the many projects that lecturers and researchers from the University had churned out. He, therefore, assured that UCC would continue to deliver on its core mandate of teaching and research towards capacity building, socio-economic development, food security and poverty reduction in Ghana and globally.
Prof. Ampiah congratulated the cowpea research team of the University and collaborating institutions namely; Savanna Agriculture Research Institute (SARI), Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, University of Virginia, United States of America as well as farmers, consumers and all stakeholders who participated in the research activities. He also paid tribute to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) for funding the project.
Making Seeds Accessible to Farmers
On his part, the Principal Investigator of the research team, Prof. Aaron Tettey Asare, noted that adequate foundation seed had been produced for certified seed production in 2020 to enable farmers to access them for cultivation. He explained that the cowpea project was executed through a multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary approach and cross-fertilised by inter-institutional and international collaborations coupled with farmer and consumer participatory activities. Prof. Asare said cowpea had been identified as a multipurpose protein-dense food security crop widely consumed in Ghana but the major challenges confronting cowpea production included Infections, viruses, and drought, most of which could not be controlled by cultural practices, weedicides, and insecticides.
"The consequence is hunger and poverty with prevailing protein deficiency diseases, especially among children and pregnant women in rural and some urban communities in Ghana, since they cannot afford to buy animal protein," he stated.
However, he noted that Ghana still depended on imported cowpea varieties to supplement local production to meet consumer needs. That, he noted, warranted continuous rigorous research to breed for resistance in the cowpea genome with improved yield and grain quality to complement already made efforts by institutions such as the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute, Crop Research Institute, and the Plant Genetic Resources Institute to help feed the increasing Ghanaian population.
Providing Solutions through Research
The Pro Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Dora F. Edu-Buandoh, said the University would continue to conduct research into problems affecting society and proffer solutions for the well-being of humanity.
As part of the function, the newly improved varieties were displayed at an exhibition where the University and the general public had the opportunity to taste food items such as pastries and drinks made from cowpea.
Present were the Registrar, Mr. John Kofi Nyan; Provost, College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, Prof. Moses Jojo Eghan; Provost, College of Distance Education, Prof. Isaac K. A. Galyuon; Paramount Chief of Oguaa Traditional Area, Osabarima Kwesi Atta II; Chief of Kokoado, Nana Kweku Enu IV; members of the Research team; representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Central Development Commission (CEDECOM) and other organisations.