A distinguished group of international experts interested in cowpea plant protection in Africa met at Purdue University for a two-day meeting on August 3rd and 4th. The group led by entomology professor Larry Murdock had two objectives. The first was to consider the future of biotech cowpea, particularly needs and opportunities, goal setting and prioritization. The second was to outline a framework for a new cowpea mega project with a global perspective to improve cowpea production. Participants included industry, government and university scientists from Africa, Australia and the US.
Among the outcomes from the meeting were:
- Resources will be available to sequence the cowpea genome. KAUST scientists will use their new facilities to obtain the first full sequence of the cowpea genome. The eventual benefits to cowpea breeders and growers are obvious.
- Support was found to use genetic markers to characterize approximately 100 close relatives of cowpea. This work is expected to reveal new sources of resistance in cowpea-compatible species as well as better understand gene flow between cultivated and wild/weedy cowpea.
- The group welcomed the concept of a new NGICA -- Network for the Global Improvement of Cowpea for All -- whose focus will be worldwide (northeast Brazil, Pakistan, India but include Africa as before) and include yard-long bean, a form of cowpea popular in South Asia.
The day following the meeting at Purdue, most of the participants traveled to Puerto Rico to review Bt-cowpea trials currently in progress.