Cowpea scientists meet in Senegal

Scientists are meeting in Saly, Senegal, this month for the Fifth World Cowpea Research Conference. The meeting will discuss threats to the survival and production of black-eyed peas—one of Africa’s oldest and most resilient and nutritious crops.

They will also discuss key constraints to cowpea production, share progress being made in advanced cowpea genomics, and consider the best ways to unlock cowpea’s potential as a hedge against climate change, hunger, and poverty.

IITA is hosting the World Cowpea Research Conference with the Government of Senegal, the Dry Grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Program, and Purdue University.

Among the issues to be discussed:
• Rescuing cowpea from extinction: Progress on global efforts to rescue the cowpea gene pool.
• “Designer” peas: State-of-the-art genetic research to develop “designer,” insect-resistant black-eyed peas.
• Cashing in on cowpea: Improved varieties offer a pathway out of poverty.
• Cowpea genemap: Update work to produce a new genetic map for cowpea to accelerate efforts to breed improved varieties.
• Biological controls for cowpea pests: Using genomics tools to develop and deploy biocontrol agents to manage insect pest populations.
• Green-er farming: How farmers are using cowpea as “green” fertilizers to revitalize degraded soils, and use crop waste as energy-rich feed for cows, sheep, and goats.
• Postharvest: Millions of African farmers are using hermetic storage without insecticides to safely store cowpea.
• Cowpea-based food entrepreneurship: Cowpea-based street foods provide income for thousands of women in West and Central Africa.

5th World Cowpea Conference


IITA and partners will host the 5th World Cowpea Research Conference in Dakar, Senegal from 27 September to 1 October 2010. The meeting will tackle research issues to enhance the profile of cowpea as a viable income-generating and food security crop.

The conference will cover a wide range of topics—from cowpea genetic improvement and use of molecular tools, to human nutrition and processing and enterprise development.

Known as “black-eyed peas”, cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.) is an annual legume and is one of the most ancient crops known to man.

Cowpea seller in market. Photo by IITA.
Cowpea seller in market. Photo by IITA.

Worldwide, it is grown on about 10.1 million ha, with an annual grain production of approximately 4.99 million tons (FAO 2008). The largest production is in Africa; Nigeria and Niger are the biggest producers. The largest areas under cultivation are in Central and West Africa. Brazil, Haiti, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Australia, the US, Bosnia, and Herzegovina also have significant production.

Conference partners include the Dry Grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Programme (Pulse-CRSP), Purdue University, and the Institut Senegalais de Recherches Agricoles.