Ms Jelila Blalogoe has graduated with her Master’s in Plant Breeding cum laude through a MoBreed project funded by the EU Intra Africa Academic Mobility Scheme programme. Her research explored the factors that influence the germination and dormancy of seeds of the “spider plant”, an underutilised, traditional leafy vegetable.
The “spider plant”, or Gynandropsis gynandra L. Briq, is indigenous to many parts of Africa and it experiences low yield, largely owing to low and non-uniform seed germination. It has therefore not been widely cultivated, nor has much research been conducted on it. The highly nutritious plant, whose leaves and shoots are often used in stews, also boasts anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful in medicinal applications.
Blalogoe did not set out to conduct research on seed germination. However, after making crosses as she had planned and sowing the seeds so that she could later evaluate the best variety, her seeds did not germinate. With only five months to go before she was due to submit, Blalogoe changed course to investigate why the seed was not germinating. The literature on the topic indicated a serious problem with no solution identified to address the germination challenge.
She described and documented the phenotypic characteristics and mineral composition of seeds of 29 G. gynandra accessions from diverse regions, determined the pattern of seed germination and dormancy development in seeds of different “spider plant” accessions and their crosses, and assessed the storage potential of “spider plant” seeds using artificial aging.
The findings offer answers to several questions about “spider plant’s” germination capacity, and most importantly, how to break dormancy in freshly harvested seeds. She proposed methods to break dormancy and accelerate germination in these seeds.
Blalogoe, who completed her previous studies at the University of Abomey Calavi (UAC) in Benin, chose to register at UKZN because of its prestigious reputation, and hopes one day to pursue a PhD using the knowledge she is acquiring in her work. She currently works as a Research Assistant in the Laboratory of Genetics, Horticulture and Seed Science at UAC.
She thanked her supervisors, Drs Julia Sibiya and Alfred Odindo, for their support, as well as her home supervisor, Professor Enoch Achigan-Dako, for his input.
Words: Christine Cuénod
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan and Supplied