Fall 2016 fellow Saba Mohammed obtained a BSc in Agriculture in 2008 and an MSc in Plant Breeding in 2012 from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria. He is now pursuing a PhD in Plant Breeding at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement, University of Ghana. His research is aimed at developing molecular markers for the genetic improvement of cowpeas for low soil phosphorus tolerance. Phosphorus is the most limiting soil nutrient for cowpea production in major growing areas in Nigeria, and areas where cowpeas are grown in sub-Saharan Africa, so this work will help fast track the development of varieties with ability to efficiently use limited soil phosphorus. Developing these varieties can also help with the sustainability of food systems in cowpea growing areas, and will ultimately benefit smallholder farmers.
Mohammed’s breeding experience began with his MSc research project, where he worked on trans-genic cowpea lines that were bred to resist the devastating effects of Maruca vitrata, a major cowpea pest in West Africa. In January 2012, he joined the Institute for Agricultural Research at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria as an Assistant Research Fellow. Since then, he has been working on breeding research in their Cowpea Genetic Improvement program. As a scientist, Mohammed strongly believes that he can make great contributions to the growth and development of crop production, utilizing both his theoretical background and his creativity. He also believes that Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa have the potential to become food secure, if its rich human and agricultural resources are appropriately harnessed. Mohammed would like to see himself at the forefront of crop breeding, introducing varieties with resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, and mentoring up-coming young scientists.
Mohammed will be working with US mentor Dr. Jonathan Lynch, a professor of Plant Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Lynch has gained expertise of over three decades in crop adaptation to edaphic stress, including drought, and low availability of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. His research has identified several root traits that have been used for breeding more stress tolerant crops in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. His team has also developed tools and concepts that will be useful to Mohammed in furthering his education and career goals. In addition, Mohammed will be working with Dr. Ousmane Boukar at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria. Dr. Boukar is a seasoned cowpea breeder, with a good understanding of the crop. His knowledge of the cowpea extends back nearly thirty years, and his experience in conducting high-quality research to uncover the genetic basis of resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses will greatly enhance Mohammed’s capacity as a young scientist. Mohammed looks to complete his PhD studies by the end of 2018.