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An historical review of progress to control key cowpea biotic constraints in Burkina Faso
Ba, Malick N.
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Cowpea farming practices have been ongoing for millennia and have always faced various challenges including diseases, insects, and weeds, that lower its yield to no more than 200 kg/ha. This economically and nutritionally important crop has been a major research focus of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and of several national agricultural research systems (NARS) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and partner universities. Researchers have begun to develop sustainable solutions that will minimize the use of synthetic pesticides for protecting the crop in the field and seeds in storage. Research activities of entomologists have made identification of pests possible while also ensuring better understanding about their biology and ecology and plant damaging relationships. Through joint efforts by IITA, NARS, universities, and advanced research institutions, and the support from financial partners via research networks, researchers were able to develop a wide range of improved varieties that tolerate yield limiting biotic stresses. Progress has been made in the protection of cowpea from the initial stages when application of synthetic insecticides was promoted through reduced frequency and targeted insecticide sprays to the deployment of natural enemies of the most economically important insect pests. The concept of integrated pest management has become a reality in sustainable cowpea production. The cowpea lines resulting from selections made among local farmers’ varieties under no insecticide application in Burkina Faso have reduced the need for pesticide application. Combined with application of insecticidal plant extracts, these selected lines can attain up to 600 kg/ha. Finally, it is now possible to store cowpea seeds without chemicals by using triple bagging which stifles bruchids (weevils) of air. Prospects include exploiting the possibilities of biological control and, at the same time, using advanced technological opportunities offered by biotechnology to control cowpea pests and minimize losses in the field and in storage.