“Our preliminary studies have shown one major gene for drought tolerance,” he said. “We’re trying to transfer that gene into the improved varieties found in Africa, Asia and the U.S. that have good healthful factors and are aphid resistant. We hope these new varieties will have major impact improving food production in southern U.S., Africa, Asia and Brazil.”

The cowpea originated in Africa and was brought to America around 1775. It was used mainly as a fodder crop, and then became a grain crop in the southern U.S.  It fixes its own nitrogen, doesn’t need much fertility and is resistant to many diseases. The crude protein in improved varieties can be up to 30 percent.

“We hope in the 21st century when drought, heat and moisture become factors, a 60-day heat- and drought-tolerant cowpea will become the main food legume in the world as it would fit in the existing cereals and root-crops systems as a short-duration niche crop.”

Singh is advocating the cowpea not only as a food crop, but also as crop for livestock that can be cut and baled.  Instead of having a grazing cowpea and a food cowpea, Singh envisions having an all-in-one variety from which a producer can get both fodder and food.