RIVERSIDE, Calif. Providing food security, one of the greatest challenges of our time, is a critical goal especially in the developing world, where crop destruction by drought, disease and pest infestation swiftly places millions of lives at risk of hunger.
Scientists at the University of California, Riverside will help meet this challenge by focusing on cowpea, a protein-rich legume crop of immense importance to Africa that complements starchy staple crops such as corn, cassava, sorghum and millets in the diets of millions of Africans.
The research, which is expected to significantly benefit resource-poor African farmers, is being made possible by a three-year grant of nearly $1.7 million to UC Riverside from the Generation Challenge Program of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
The UCR researchers will apply genomic technology to develop new and improved cowpea cultivars that have tolerance to drought as well as improved resistance to pests and diseases. Due mostly to drought and pests, cowpea yields in Africa oftentimes are less than one fourth their potential yield.
UCR hosts a collection of 5,000 cowpea varieties from around the world, said Jeff Ehlers, the principal investigator of the grant and a specialist in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences with more than 20 years of experience conducting genetic research on cowpea in California and Africa. These genetically diverse varieties offer a treasure-trove of genes of potential value to breeders seeking to build better cowpea varieties. Because of the grant, we will be able to more efficiently identify genes we can use to develop improved cowpea varieties.
Cowpea is popular in the southern United States, where it is known as black-eyed peas and other names, and consumed as a freshly shelled or dry bean. Immature pods of c
|Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala|
University of California - Riverside