S01.A5 - UCR

S01.A5–UCR, Genetic improvement of cowpea to overcome drought and biotic constraints to grain productivity

University of California, Riverside, as Lead University

U.S. PIs and Institutions and Collaborating Host Countries

Lead U.S. PI

  • Philip A. Roberts, University of California, Riverside, CA, USA

Collaborating Scientists: U.S.  

  • Timothy J. Close, Dept. Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California, Riverside, CA, USA
  • Bao-Lam Huynh, University of California, Riverside, USA

Collaborating Scientists: International

  • Issa Drabo & T. Benoit Joseph Batieno, Institut de l'Environment et des Recherches Agricole (INERA), Koudougou and Kamboinse, Burkina Faso
  • Ibrahim Atokple & Francis Kusi, Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), Tamale, Ghana
  • Ndiaga Cisse, Centre National Recherches Agronomie, Bambey, Institut Senegalais de Recherches Agricole (ISRA) & CERAAS, Thies, Senegal


Project Briefs

Annual Technical Progress Reports (ATPR)

Workplans and Technical Description

Project Problem Statement and Justification (Brief)

Low productivity of agriculture is central to rural and urban poverty in Africa. On-farm cowpea yields in West Africa average 240 kg/ha, even though potential yields are often five to ten times greater.  Most of the loss in yield potential is due to drought, poor soil fertility, and insect pests. Insect pests are seen as a major regional constraint to cowpea productivity in West Africa. The project team determined that significant gain can be made by targeting the major insect threats that occur at early (aphids), mid-flowering and pod-set (flower thrips), and later pod-filling (pod-sucking bugs) stages of the cowpea season.

Cowpea varieties with increased productivity (yield per unit area) without the need for purchased inputs especially benefit poor farmers, many being women who lack access to the most productive lands. By targeting insect tolerance and combining with drought tolerance, we have the opportunity to increase cowpea productivity. Productivity is key to increasing rural incomes and new resources can then be invested in other activities that help boost total family income.  Productivity increases also help reduce prices to urban consumers. Sustainable increases in cowpea productivity in Africa and the US can be achieved through development of varieties with resistance to insects, nematodes and pathogens, drought tolerance, and the ability to thrive under of low soil fertility.


  1. Discover QTL for insect resistance and apply in molecular breeding for target regions in West Africa and the United States
  2. Complete release and validation of advanced cowpea lines developed under the Pulse CRSP in Burkina Faso, Senegal, and United States
  3. Increase capacity of NARS in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Senegal to serve the cowpea sector.

Target Outputs

  1. Aphid resistance
  2. Thrips resistance
  3. Pod bug resistance
  4. SNP markers for Bt tracking
  5. Variety releases
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