Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture (PCTOC)

, Volume 139, Issue 3, pp 429–453 | Cite as

Current advances and future directions in genetic enhancement of a climate resilient food legume crop, cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.)

  • Meenakshi Sindhu
  • Anil Kumar
  • Honey Yadav
  • Darshna Chaudhary
  • Ranjana Jaiwal
  • Pawan K. JaiwalEmail author


Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.) is a warm-season legume crop which is widely grown by resource-poor small and marginal farmers of Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Central and South America for food and nutrition security, income generation and soil fertility improvement. Its productivity in its traditionally growing areas is constrained by a wide range of biotic (parasitic weeds, insect pests, viruses, fungal and bacterial pathogens, nematodes and aphids) and abiotic (drought, high temperature, salinity, low phosphorus) stresses. Cowpea’s genomic resources are limited and do not contain resistance sources for some of the stresses especially the most damaging insect pests and viruses. Widening its gene pool through interspecific hybridization including with wild relatives has met with limited success and this has encouraged adoption of genetic transformation leading to transfer of transgenes for resistance to Maruca pod borer, and bruchids, viruses, root-knot nematodes, herbicides and salt and drought stresses but only recently pod borer resistant Bt cowpea is released for commercial cultivation in Nigeria. The current cowpea gene transfer approaches are still inefficient, genotype and explant (tissue) dependent, and introduced mostly a single gene at a time. The recent progress in genomics, transcriptomics and small RNA studies has led to the identification of novel genes for various agronomic traits. The improvement in gene transfer and regeneration system would overcome the bottlenecks in production of transgenic- and gene-edited cowpea plants resilient to emerging pests, pathogens and abiotic stresses with better nutritional quality. The present review discusses the current advances in cowpea genomics, transcriptomics and development of transgenic plants for various desirable attributes and highlights the future directions for improvement in its yield and quality.


Cowpea Genomics Transcriptomics Genetic transformation Transgenic plants Gene editing Biotic and abiotic stresses Nutritional quality 



MS, AK and HY are thankful to DST, New Delhi, MDU, Rohtak and UGC, New Delhi for the Award of Inspire Fellowship, University Research Scholarship and Senior Research Fellowship, respectively. PKJ is grateful to UGC, New Delhi for the Award of Basic Science Research (BSR) Faculty Fellowship and DBT, New Delhi for financial support to his laboratory.

Author contributions

MS, AK and HY collected the literature, wrote the manuscript and designed the tables. DS, RJ and PKJ conceived the idea, designed the outline of the study, corrected the manuscript and provided critical comments. All the authors have read and approved the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11240_2019_1695_MOESM1_ESM.docx (38 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 37 kb)
11240_2019_1695_MOESM2_ESM.docx (28 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 28 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for BiotechnologyM. D. UniversityRohtakIndia
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyM. D. UniversityRohtakIndia

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