UCR-1, Modern Cowpea Breeding to Overcome Critical Production Constraints in Africa and the U.S.

University of California - Riverside as lead university           

Modern Cowpea Breeding to Overcome Critical Production Constraints in Africa and the U.S.

U.S. PIs & Institutions and Collaborating Host Countries

Lead U.S.:
Phillip Roberts
Department of Nematology, University of California - Riverside, Riverside, California

Ndiaga Cisse, ISRA, Senegal
Jeff Ehlers, UC-R, U.S.
Issa Drabo, INERA, Burkina Faso
António Chicapa Dovala, IIA, Angola


  1. Develop improved, pest resistant and drought tolerant cowpea varieties for target regions in sub Saharan Africa and the U.S. using modern plant breeding tools.
  2. Strengthen cowpea seed production and delivery systems in Angola, Burkina Faso, and Senegal to ensure delivery of improved varieties. 
  3. Technology Dissemination (Seed of Improved Cowpea Varieties in West Africa)
  4. Capacity Building for Host Country NARS

Problem Statement:

This project addresses primary constraints under the Topical Areas of Inquiry for Theme A “reducing cowpea production costs and risks for enhanced profitability and competitiveness”, and Theme B “increasing the utilization of cowpea grain, food products and ingredients so as to expand market opportunities and improve human health.” Genomics and modern breeding methods will be used to improve cowpea for yield limiting constraints. By leveraging genomic resources developed under a complementary cowpea project, we will implement a comprehensive application of modern breeding protocols for cowpea. Until now cowpea, as an ‘orphan crop’, has lacked genomic resources for modern breeding despite its importance in African agriculture.

Target Outputs:

  • New variety candidates advanced and selected from Phase I elite breeding populations.
  • New cowpea varieties released in Burkina Faso, Senegal, and California.
  • Existing cowpea varieties and breeding lines assessed for production potential in Angola.
  • High through-put marker selection optimized for African cowpea breeding programs.
  • Foundation and Certified Seed production systems strengthened in Host Countries.
  • MS and PhD African students trained in modern plant breeding through research on cowpea.
  • HC cowpea breeders trained in application of new molecular markers for key traits.