Cowpea bacterial blight (CoBB), caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. vignicola (Xav), is a worldwide major disease of cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.]. Among different strategies to control the disease including cultural practices, intercropping, application of chemicals, and sowing pathogen-free seeds, planting of cowpea genotypes with resistance to the pathogen would be the most attractive option to the resource poor cowpea farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Breeding resistance cultivars would be facilitated by marker-assisted selection (MAS).
In order to identify loci with effects on resistance to this pathogen and map QTLs controlling resistance to CoBB, eleven cowpea genotypes were screened for resistance to bacterial blight using 2 virulent Xav18 and Xav19 strains isolated from Kano (Nigeria). Two cowpea genotypes Danila and Tvu7778 were identified to contrast in their responses to foliar disease expression following leaf infection with pathogen. A set of recombinant inbred lines (RILs) comprising 113 individuals derived from Danila (resistant parent) and Tvu7778 (susceptible parent) were infected with CoBB using leaf inoculation method. The experiments were conducted under greenhouse conditions (2007 and 2008) and disease severity was visually assessed using a scale where 0 = no disease and 4 = maximum susceptibility with leaf drop. A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genetic map with 282 SNP markers constructed from the same RIL population was used to perform QTL analysis.
Using Kruskall-Wallis and Multiple-QTL model of MapQTL 5, three QTLs, CoBB-1, CoBB-2 and CoBB-3 were identified on linkage group LG3, LG5 and LG9 respectively showing that potential resistance candidate genes cosegregated with CoBB resistance phenotypes. Two of the QTLs CoBB-1, CoBB-2 were consistently confirmed in the two experiments accounting for up to 22.1 and to 17.4% respectively for the first and second experiments. Whereas CoBB-3 was only discovered for the first experiment (2007) with less phenotypic variation explained of about 10%. Our results represent a resource for molecular marker development that can be used for marker assisted selection of bacterial blight resistance in cowpea.