The University of Cape Coast (UCC) has released seven new cowpea varieties for cultivation by farmers as part of its contribution to the Government's Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme.
The varieties, with potential yield ranging from 2.0 tons per hector to 4.0 tones per hector are more drought and disease resilient with early maturity traits as well as dual purpose use.
This follows a research undertaken by a team of researchers from the university titled "Sustainable Utilisation of Cowpea Genetic Resources for Enhanced Food Security and Poverty Alleviation in the Dry Savannah Northern Regions of Ghana" as part of its cowpea project.
The UCC Cowpea Project, which is funded by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), was carried out in some communities in the Northern and Southern parts of Ghana.
Collaborators for the project are the Savannah Agricultural Research (SARI) and Plant Genetic Resources Research Institutes (PGRRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and the University of Virginia, USA.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday to officially launch the release of the varieties, Professor Aaron Asare, Leader of the Research Team said adequate foundation had been laid for certified seeds to be produced to enable farmers access and cultivate.
He mentioned that infection of parasitic weed and striga disease remained a major challenge for cowpea cultivation in Ghana which often led to significant yield loses coupled with the effect of viruses, rust, root rots, aphides and drought which could not be controlled by cultural practices, weedicides or insecticides.
In that regard, he explained that the team was motivated to develop and select striga, rust, viral and drought resistant as well as high yielding and early maturing cowpea genotype for farmer cultivation in wider agro-ecological zones in Ghana to meet consumer needs.
Prof. Asare who is also the Poject Manager, noted that cowpea, a multipurpose protein-dense food security crop, though widely consumed in Ghana, had a very low production rate mostly cultivated by subsistent farmers in the dry Savannah Regions of the North.
Prof Asare, a Plant Biotechnologist at the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology said Ghana had the right climatic condition and adequate land for the cultivation of cowpea, adding that the release of the varieties would increase production to meet the demands of the nation and also for export.
This, according to him, would contribute towards food security and poverty reduction in line with the Government's "Planting for Food and Jobs" initiative.
He said the nutritional value of the cowpea crop was comparatively very healthy adding that, "Cowpea is consumed in most homes in Ghana and it is common to find people patronising waakye or gari and beans"
"The outcomes of the cowpea research suggest that consideration of the Coastal Savannah, Forest-Savannah Transition and Semi-deciduos forest for cowpea production in Ghana should be a priority to expanding the scope of cowpea cultivation in Ghana", Prof Asare stated.
Professor Joseph Ghartey- Ampiah, Vice Chancellor of UCC said the university 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.
He reiterated the nutritional,socio-economic and agricultural importance of cowpea and added that the crop remained a cheap source of plant protein, vitamins and minerals for over 70 percent of the Ghanaian population.
Prof Ghartey-Ampiah identified increasing population growth, hospitality industry, traditional and industrial processors and the School Feeding Program as emerging markets for an increased production of cowpea in the phase of climate change phenomenon.