Cowpea Breeding

The cowpea breeding programme was initiated in 2014 with 250 cowpea accessions, including Ugandan released varieties and land races, and lines from IITA, Ghana and Brazil. The germplasm base has been expanded to include 384 subsets of a world cowpea collection (Minicore) and 261 MAGIC lines obtained from the Feed the Future Climate Resilient Cowpea Innovation Lab at the University of California at Riverside.

These lines are fully single-nucleotide genotyped (SNP) and are being exploited to map genes controlling multiple traits. Already phenotypically characterized and coupled with marker data, this germplasm base allows for a precise choice of donor parents for hybridization.

From the parental lines, over 300 populations have been created that possess unique traits, including higher yield, earliness, tolerance to drought stress, resistance to diseases (scab, Cercospora leafspot and Fusarium wilt) and insects (flower bud thrips and bruchids) and preferred seed size and color. Advancement of populations for further testing and release are ongoing processes.

From the initial accessions, the top 30 high-yielding and adaptable lines have progressed to the National Performance Trial.  Joint testing of MaRCCI lines is conducted with SeedCo, with potential for their commercialization. Our ten-year cowpea breeding plan is shown on the opposite figure (to be updated).