The Biotechnology Society of Nigeria (BSN) has bestowed the society’s highest honour on Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku, Executive Director, Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria for the development and release of the Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea in Nigeria.
The BSN uses the auspices of its annual conference, the highest gathering of biotechnologists in Nigeria, to honour those who contributed to the growth and development of biotechnology in the country.
Speaking at the ceremony, the BSN President Prof. Benjamin Ubi said that Prof. Ishiyaku is a trailblazer who spent most part of his career laying a solid foundation for the practice of modern biotechnology in the country.
“Prof. Ishiyaku and his team were able to resolve one of the most challenging problems that Cowpea farmers in Africa faced. Resolving this problem alone using biotechnology tools is worthy of commendation,” he said.
A citation of Prof. Ishiyaku read at the ceremony noted that he was bestowed the honor for leading a team of researchers to develop and release the first transgenic variety of cowpea, resistant to pod borer and the first of its kind ever released in the world.
The society also said Prof. Ishiyaku had been the National Cowpea Breeder since 1997 working mainly to introgress genes of resistance/tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress into Nigerian popular cowpea landraces and varieties using conventional and modern biotechnology tools such as genetic transformation and molecular marker technology.
Prof. Ishiyaku who was also said to have developed and released nine varieties of cowpea with other collaborators is interested in developing multi-purpose varieties for grain and fodder production with qualities most preferred Nigerian consumers.
PBR Cowpea is a genetically modified cowpea variety that was developed through an international network of public and private partners coordinated AATF across three African countries of Nigeria, Ghana, and Burkina Faso.
PBR Cowpea is resistant to damaging legume pod borer (Maruca vitrata). It produces good yield, matures early, and requires minimal spraying of pesticide (2 sprays within a planting cycle as against 7 sprays for conventional cowpea varieties). The variety was approved by the federal government of Nigeria for commercialization in December 2019, making it the first genetically modified food crop developed and released in the country.