Ministry introduces mutant cowpea seeds

By Rosalia David

THE Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWLF) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under the joint Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO/IAEA) Technical Cooperation agreement have introduced new cowpea seed varieties.

In a press release issued by the ministry it said in 2019, the ministry and IAEA initiated a research collaboration project on induced mutation breeding. The project was implemented from cropping seasons 2009/2010 to 2016/2017 by the Directorate of Agricultural Research and Development (DARD) at three of the ministerial crop research stations: Bagani, Mannheim and Omahenene in Kavango East, Oshikoto and Omusati region.

The five newly introduced cowpea mutant varieties are in addition to the three existing Cowpea varieties (Nakare, Bira and Shindimba) and is expected to contribute immensely to food security at both household and national level.

“The main objective of the project was to apply mutation breeding techniques to develop high yielding, early maturing, and drought tolerant and insect pests and diseases resistant crop varieties and under this project, three major staple crops, namely pearl millet – mahangu (Pennisetum glaucum), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), seed selected varieties were exposed to irradiation using Gama rays at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Seibersdorf Laboratories in Viena, Austria.”

The ministry said crop production provides the basic sustenance for the majority of people living in the crop growing regions of the country, who depend mainly on agriculture for their livelihood. It also said sustained increase in agricultural production and productivity depends to a large extent on the development of new and improved varieties of crops and efficient systems for timely supply inputs.

“Seed is the most important determinant of crop production potential on which the efficacy of other agricultural inputs depends. Seed of appropriate characteristics is required to meet the demand of diverse agro-climatic conditions and intensive cropping system.”

The ministry further stated that  it will ensure there is sufficient quality certified seed of the new varieties for distribution to the farming community across the country and that the developed cowpea varieties will be gazetted and released to Namibian varieties as soon as local names are finalised.

The production of foundation seed of these varieties have already commenced at crop research stations across the country.

In 2019, MAWLF introduced new crop varieties of cowpea and sorghum that are also more tolerant to drought and pests through nuclear technology with the support of the (IAEA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).