Viral infections are a major challenge to sustainable cowpea production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Nine cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp) genotypes were evaluated for resistance against viral infection in a field trial involving randomized complete block design with 4 replications. Viral disease severity was assessed at 2, 4 and 6 weeks after planting (WAP) based on disease symptoms. Double antibody sandwich-enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (DAS-ELISA) using antisera raised against cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), cowpea severe mottle virus (CPSMV), cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV) and southern bean mosaic virus (SBMV) was used to detect the viruses associated with diseased leaf samples collected from the field. Biometric and yield data were also taken. The mean disease incidence and area under disease progress curve (AUDPC) varied significantly (P < 0.05) among the cowpea genotypes, with 7 (Apagbaala, UCC-366, UCC-489, UCC-490, UCC-497, UCC-514 and UCC-523) out of 9 cowpea genotypes showing field resistance whilst the other two (UCC-473 and UCC-484) exhibited moderate resistance. ELISA showed that all the 9 cowpea genotypes were infected with at least one of the three viruses namely CMV, CPMV and CPSMV, whereas SBMV was not detected. Co-infection by CMV, CPMV and CPSMV was observed in UCC-366. Mean plant height, canopy diameter and seed yield differed significantly (P < 0.05) among the cowpeas. UCC-473, UCC-316, and UCC-523 had high mean seed yields of 6.690, 4.922 and 4.144 t ha-1 respectively, above the overall mean seed yield of 3.63 t ha-1, emphasizing their resilient to viruses.
Key words: Vigna unguiculata, viral infection, disease incidence and severity, resistance screening.