Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Engineer Cowpea to Produce Bt Protein Against Maruca Pod Borer

November 2, 2017

In a report in Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture (PCTOC), scientists have engineered cowpea -- one of the most important sources of vegetable protein for rural families in Sub-Saharan Africa -- to produce a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) protein, which protects against the Maruca pod borer that plagues the crop. Bt has been used as an organic pesticide for several decades, but it is often unavailable or too expensive for smallholder farmers.

Bt cowpea could yield as much as 25 percent more than other cowpea varieties, said TJ Higgins, a research scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) who led this work.Bt cowpea could be released next year to farmers in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Ghana at no cost.

For more details, the open access article is available at PCTOC.