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2 grants to UC Riverside boost scientists' efforts in developing improved cowpea varieties
Date:10/30/2013

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Cowpea is a protein-rich legume crop that plays a key role in sustaining food security for people and their livestock. Immensely important in many parts of the world, particularly drought-prone regions, it plays a central role in the diet and economy of hundreds of millions of people in Africa and Asia.

To meet the needs of a growing world population, new cowpea varieties with desirable traits, such as higher yield and quality, disease resistance, pest resistance and drought tolerance, are needed. But breeding these new varieties the conventional way crossing one variety with another, based on best guesses is time-consuming and laborious.

Enter DNA marker-assisted breeding, a genetic tool that can greatly accelerate breeding efforts by utilizing genetic "markers" or molecular flags in the plant genome that indicate the location of a particular genetic trait. Breeders use the markers to screen large populations of plants from crosses of different varieties. In effect, the markers help breeders locate genes linked to traits the way road signs help a motorist arrive at a destination.

This month, scientists at the University of California, Riverside received substantial funding by way of two grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to continue their work on developing better yielding varieties of cowpea through new genomic resources and marker-assisted breeding research by which UC Riverside directly impacts cowpea production in several countries in Africa. The grants support USAID's agricultural research and capacity building work under Feed the Future, the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

The two grants total nearly $7 million. The first, creating the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Climate-Resilient Cowpea, is a nearly $5 million g
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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2 grants to UC Riverside boost scientists' efforts in developing improved cowpea varieties
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