Crocus Hamsini joins the Borlaug LEAP Fellowship as a Spring 2016 Fellow. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) in Malawi. Her research, titled Characterization of Twenty-One Common Bean Genotypes for Biological Nitrogen Fixation under Drought Stress, will focus on the nitrogen-fixation capacity, nodulation frequency, and yield capacity of twenty-one common bean genotypes under drought stress conditions. She hopes to use these findings to help identify bean genotypes to be used to breed a drought-resistant, better quality bean that can be provided to Malawian farmers. These beans will hopefully not only provide more income to the farmers through higher yields, but also help strengthen food security in Malawi and its surrounding countries.
Crocus envisions a self-sustaining Malawi that is in line with Feed the Future’s in-country goals: no poverty, zero hunger, and sustainably reducing negative environmental impacts. She feels that one step towards these goals is providing farmers with adequate education and improved seed varieties. While pursuing her Bachelor's degree at LUANAR's Bunda College, she was introduced to the world of scientific research. In an undergraduate plant-breeding course, she discovered how much plant genetics could potentially make a difference not only in the agricultural field, but also in many other different and important arenas. During her fellowship, Crocus hopes to increase her knowledge and skills in plant genetics, and also to learn from her mentors and others the art of becoming a more effective leader. Her previous employment had her working with farmers to train them in improved production techniques and helping them to secure small loans. Having already worked with farmers on a basic level, she would like to take the next step in finding new ways to collaborate with and inspire others towards a better future by becoming better informed herself.
Crocus will be working with two mentors during her Borlaug LEAP Fellowship. Dr. Phillip Miklas, a professor and Research Geneticist at Washington State University, will guide Crocus in learning new techniques to classify and understand bean genetics. He is currently involved in phenotypic and genotypic studies and breeding relative to abiotic and biotic stress resistance. He will help Crocus focus her research and develop her thesis. Dr. Rowland Chirwa, a Bean Breeder at CIAT in Malawi, will provide her with field training, helping her design and carry out experiments both in and out of the lab. He is currently coordinating bean research for development activities in all countries where the common bean is considered to be an important crop in southern Africa, by distributing bean lines and varieties and monitoring the evaluation process for future variety releases. He will guide her through the Malawi growing season and help her assess her findings. Crocus expects to finish her thesis and receive her Master’s degree in 2017.