ZARIA – Beans farmers in Nigeria will begin to record double their current profits by 2018, following the planned release in 2017 of a variety resistant to its greatest pest, the maruca.
Prof. Prince Addae, the West African Representative of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), disclosed this on Friday in Zaria.
Addae was addressing newsmen at a training organised for science and agricultural journalists.
He said that the maruca-resistant beans (cowpea) variety has been developed, planted in confined fields, purposely infested with a lot of maruca and yet produced great yields that have been harvested.
He said that the foundation and its research partners were conducting all necessary research and testing to get the seeds ready for release by 2017 for planting by farmers.
“In the farmers’ field, the pod borer reduces cowpea yield by 80 per cent and that is a lot; these you don’t see because you are not on the farm but the cowpea farmer sees this.
“Every time he plants cowpea he loses 80 per cent of the yield even though he sprays the field with insecticides; if he doesn’t spray, he gets nothing.
“With this maruca-resistant variety, the maruca cannot feed on the cowpea because of the resistance so the maruca shrinks until it dies off while the beans flowers bountifully.
“The project will be released to farmers in Nigeria and some other African countries by 2017.
“There are a lot more things to do before the seeds gets to the farmer; first of all, the Biosafety Bill is so important.
“When the farmers saw this last time, they were happy and willing to take it but we couldn’t give them yet, because we do not have the Biosafety Law in place yet.
“We have put ourselves in the forefront to say that we will try and get the seeds to the farmer by 2017: we are working so hard on it but we need the biosafety bill passed.”
He said that if the variety was released in 2017, beans farmers would begin to double their profits by 2018, as they would not spend much on insecticides and yet reap three-times higher harvest.
Addae said that part of the reason for waiting to 2017 was to move the resistance from the one variety of beans to all other varieties through cross breeding.
He said that the AAFT would also have to carry out series of testing as demanded by industry regulations before the product is released.
Speaking on the issue of safety, Prof. Mohammed Ishyaku of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and lead researcher in the Maruca-resistant cowpea project, said that the product was safe and would be safe when released.
He said that the purpose of all the testing was not because there was a perceived risk but because they needed to ensure the resistance was present in the varieties.
“This bacteria is targeted on some specific group of insects not all insects.
“The bacteria has some form of innate insecticide against some of the insects.
“So people began to say that instead of spraying with insecticides, why don’t we develop plants that inherently can protect themselves because they have inherited this trait.
“We tried about 1,500 varieties, trying to put the gene in the cowpea plant, only one was successful. If you are working on it, you get disappointed,” he said.
According to him, researchers will now cross breed from the only resistant variety of cowpea to all other varieties of cowpea.
The researchers disclosed that although the cowpea was now resistant to maruca, the beans farmer would still have to do a little spraying to ward off other insect pests of the beans.
The harvest of the maruca resistant beans which is the first in Nigeria, was a bountiful harvest as the beans pods were without blemish. (NAN)