Table_1_Optimizing Resource Allocation in a Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.) Landrace Through Whole-Plant Field Phenotyping and Non-stop Selection to Sustain Increased Genetic Gain Across a Decade.DOCX
Cowpea is a warm-season legume, often characterized as an orphan or underutilized crop, with great future potential, particularly under the global change. A traditional cowpea landrace in Cyprus is highly valued for fresh pod consumption in the local cuisine. In order to improve the yield potential of the landrace, the long-term response to direct selection for fresh pod yield and the associated changes in fodder and root biomass were investigated in a variety of fertility regimes under real field conditions. The non-stop selection process employed comprehensive pod, fodder, and root phenotyping at the level of the individual plant and resulted in the creation of a range of highly improved sibling lines with differential adaptation to micro-environments and with an improved ratio of pod to shoot and root biomass. The average rate of increase per year for fresh pod yield is at the level of 180 g per plant despite the relatively narrow genetic base of a single landrace and it is seemingly inexhaustible testifying to the great plasticity of the cowpea genome and the potential of the methodology to capture it. The corresponding high genetic gain was also confirmed under dense stands where the difference in pod yield between the best selection and the control amounted to 31.37%. Thus, the new focus apart from the simple variety maintenance should also include the continuous improvement and exploitation of micro-adaptation processes specific for individual fields that allow quick responses to environmental and climatic changes. This work presents also a novel approach to the multiple challenges encountered in root phenotyping and a method to meaningfully associate it with whole-plant performance in field conditions.