Elohor Mercy Diebiru became a Borlaug LEAP Fellow in the Spring of 2014 for her research on the mechanisms by which cassava plants could be induced flower earlier, with greater flower production, and with better seed set. This process is threefold and began by sampling and extracting tissues of plants grafted in the field environment of Nigeria. She then brought those samples to Cornell University to analyze the carbohydrate, hormone, and FT transcript levels. The second step involved spraying hormone solutions on foliage of the cassava plants at 3, 4, and 5 weeks after planting. The final step is Photoperiodism, or the changing of the length of day and night. Long days are known to promote flowering in cassava, therefore genotypes were planted in a greenhouse with supplemental artificial lighting that supplied dim light conditions in order to extend the day length to 16 hours of light and 8 hours of dark. This research will hopefully shed light on how to encourage earlier flowering, thereby improving the production of cassava for farmers.
Ms. Diebiru’s vision for her country is to assist in making agriculture a productive contributor to economic vitality and food security, so that it will attract more investment and as many talented young people to the profession as possible. She hopes her work will bring reforms that add new vitality to agriculture, will be both comprehensive and well packaged in order to address all aspects of agricultural problems, and will adds better options for people who grow crops, so that they have the opportunity to lead better livelihoods. Her mentors Dr. Setter of Cornell University and Dr. Kulakow of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) are both accomplished scientists in plant breeding, and the involvement helped her gain a better understanding of how to use new tools for crop improvement. Ms. Diebiru expects to complete her PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics in early 2016.