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Texas A&M Aims to Develop Better Cowpeas by Mapping Genes

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Armed with a $500,000 National Institutes of Health grant, Texas A&M researchers are mapping the genes that control heat tolerance in cowpeas, the university said today.

The project aims to develop SNP markers to allow for the efficient manipulation of heat and drought tolerance in cowpeas and related species. The researchers will use DNA sequencing technology to map and ultimately clone genes in cowpeas, also called black-eyed peas.

Genes that are developed will also be used in other crops, Meiping Zhang, an associate research scientist at the university involved in the project, said, adding that new varieties of cowpeas have traits with agronomic importance, including 60- to 70-day maturity, drought tolerance, heat tolerance, aphid resistance, and low phosphorous tolerance.

She and her colleagues have developed a mapping population of 110 highly recombinant inbred lines from a cross of two cowpea lines that are tolerant or susceptible to drought and high temperature, Texas A&M said.

The research is expected to elucidate the molecular basis of plant tolerance to drought and heat, which in turn, will help researchers design tools to combine multiple traits into new cultivars adapted to changing climates in cowpeas, as well as other related crops, the university said.