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 smallholderfarmers.
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.