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Genetic Analysis for Cooking Time and Seed Coat Properties of Cowpea (Pilot)

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Research Intern - Lushomo lowering the cooker into the beaker.




Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L.) is an important food security crop in Zambia. Cooking time is an important consumer trait because cooking energy is expensive. Breeding for reduced cooking time could potentially increase cowpea consumption, reduce household expenditures on cooking energy and indirectly reduce deforestation caused by charcoal or firewood used to cook cowpea in many African countries including Zambia.


Genetic variability for cooking time exists to support development of faster cooking cowpea varieties, but knowledge on the genetic basis of this variability is limited. The UCR Minicore Collection of 368 worldwide accessions of cowpea is an excellent genetic resource for investigating genetic variability for cooking time and its genetic basis. The UCR Minicore, which has already been genotyped with 51,128 SNPs, will be evaluated at University of Zambia for cooking time using Mattson cookers, seed coat properties and seed size. Possible relationships between seed traits and cooking time will be explored, and genome-wide association analysis for seed coat traits and cooking time will be conducted. The study will identify faster cooking genotypes that could potentially be used in breeding for reduced cooking time. Furthermore, the proposed study will provide important insights into the genetic basis of cooking time in cowpea.




  1. Investigate cooking time genetic variability in the UCR Minicore Collection.

  2. Investigate possible relationship/s between seed coat properties and cooking time in cowpea.

  3. Conduct a genome-wide association analysis for cooking time and its related traits.

Progress to date


  1. Seeds were planted in the greenhouse in August 2023. For field trials, seeds were planted in four different locations

    • Kabwe Research Station

    • UNZA Research Farm

    • Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust (GART)

    • Mochipapa Research Station

  2. Severe drought destroyed plants in GART and Mochipapa and hence individuals from these locations cannot be used in the further studies.

  3. Cooking time of subset of 105 UCR Minicore collection, grown in greenhouse, has been investigated in the lab using a Mattson Cooker.

  4. Results have so far shown that seeds have 103% hydration capacity, cooking time of 26 minutes and 6.4g seed weight in average.

  5. Genotype UCR_345 was found to have the most optimal parameters of all the individuals.

  6. So far results have suggested a strong correlation between hydration capacity and cooking time and seed coat to have a strong influence on cooking time.


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Dr Kelvin Kamfwa

Principal Investigator, University of Zambia.

Dr Kamfwa has led the KT-funded bean improvement programme in Zambia since its inception in 2017. He holds a PhD in Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology from Michigan State University, USA, and an MSc in Crop Science from Makerere University, Uganda.


Ms Swivia Hamabwe


​Ms Hamabwe obtained her MSc in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry from the University of Nairobi in 2020. Since 2017 she has been working as a Staff Development Fellow in the University of Zambia. She is also working as an assisting lecturer and Research Assistant in the Bean Breeding Program in the University of Zambia. Alongside these roles, Ms Hamabwe conducts her own research focusing on crop physiology and plant responses to environmental stress.

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