Cowpea, Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp., is susceptible to a wide spectrum of insect pests from seedling to harvest as well as in storage. Insecticide use has been the most commonly adopted method for the control of cowpea pests. However, due to the deleterious effects of insecticides on man, livestock and the environment, research over the years has been focused mainly on developing resistant/tolerant cultivars as a vital component in the integrated management of cowpea pests. This approach has, however, recorded varying degrees of success, due in part to the multiple and often overlapping pest complex attacking at different phenological growth stages of the crop.
In spite of the progress in the utilisation of insect-resistant cowpea varieties, the use of resistance as a control tactic has by no means been fully realised. There are many important cowpea insect pests for which resistant varieties are not yet available for commercial cultivation. Where resistant varieties are available for a given insect, these varieties may not be widely planted because of their unsuitability to local conditions.
In this paper, the status of host plant resistance research in cowpea is reviewed and some novel approaches aimed at solving its seemingly intractable pest problem are proposed, based on the state-of-the-art scientific and crop biotechnological development. The proposed framework for orientation of cowpea resistance research should ensure yield stability and sustainability for the resource-poor, smallscale farmers in Africa.