SO1.B To Reduce the Yield Gap

SO1.B: To sustainably reduce the yield gap for select grain legume crops by smallholder, resource-poor farmers in strategic cropping systems

The Legume Innovation Lab will focus on sustainably reducing the yield gap in cowpea for the Sudano–Sahelian region of West Africa. Pod-sucking insect pests are considered the principal constraint to cowpea grain yields in this region. Unfortunately, breeding for genetic resistance to pod-sucking insect pests has not shown promise due to the lack of robust resistance genes in Vigna unguiculata and related species. Transgenic Bt cowpea lines will not likely become available for commercial planting throughout the Sahel for five to 10 years; moreover, the Maruca pod borer (Maruca vitrata) is only one of the numerous pod-sucking insect pests that can cause 50 to 90 percent losses in grain yields during a growing season.

As a result of progress made in the identification of biological controls (e.g., insect pest viruses, parasitoids, beneficial insects) for many economically significant cowpea insect pests through collaborative research among IITA, the Pulse CRSP, and the NARS partners in Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, Ghana, and Nigeria over the past five years, future efforts will be directed toward the development of a comprehensive and sustainable toolkit of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technologies and management practices and their deployment for the benefit of resource-poor, smallholder cowpea farmers in the region. Genomics and innovative communications tools developed by Legume Innovation Lab scientists will also enhance the effectiveness of this initiative.