If you haven’t talked to me recently, you may be wondering what I’m actually doing these days. My main focus of the past 7 months has been conducting field research and writing my thesis for the MSc. Agronomy program at the University of Nairobi where I’m enrolled. In a less glamorous description, this means I have been sweating and getting blisters while cultivating my research crop (spider plant) under the scorching Kenyan sun, spending hours on public transportation and walking miles to get to my field, watching the clouds and praying for rain (but not too much!), devoting countless hours measuring plant height and counting the number leaves on a plant, problem solving irrigation challenges for the umpteenth time (“You mean, there’s no water again today?”), going google-eyed while turning number-filled Excel sheets into a meaningful conclusion, and writing my thesis, then changing it then changing it again…and again.
Field work was by far the hardest and most enjoyable part (and the most photogenic), so here’s a quick photo journal:
We measured and dug raised begs,
planted, and waited for the plants…
They came! And grew quite well.
All was not fun and games… especially on rainy days, but I had a good team working with me.
And Simon even came to help occasionally!
In the end, the experiments gave us good data, and now it is on to data analysis and writing!
If you’re satisfied with this explanation of the project, you have completed your reading. Congratulations! You may now stop. If you still have questions, keep reading.
BONUS: Here are a few details about my project for fellow researchers, science nerds or curious non-scientists. I’m researching an indigenous vegetable, Cleome gynandra. Its English name is spider plant or cat’s whiskers, but it has no relation to the American house plant called spider plant. Spider plant along with many other local vegetables are more nutritious than introduced vegetables such as cabbage, kales, and broccoli. This one has many medicinal values, but as a food, its leaves are cooked then eaten (don’t eat them raw). Indigenous vegetables are becoming popular again with the middle- and upper-class Kenyans after a period when they were viewed as “poor man’s” food. At the same time, these vegetables are receiving increased research attention, and efforts to improve their production potential are under way. My project examined the effects of plant density and shoot tip or flower removal on the growth and yield of spider plant, in order to determine whether production of spider plant could be profitable for small-scale commercial production under certain management techniques.
Although results are yet to be published, you can probably guess some of the outcomes by looking at the following photos (clue: yellowing, sparse foliage is not a desirable trait for human consumption):
Season 1, 12 weeks after planting: On the left flowers were removed, while on the right, plants were left to grow undisturbed (i.e. no flower removal).
Season 2, 14 weeks after planting: On the left flowers were removed, while on the right, plants were left to grow undisturbed (i.e. no flower removal).
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, you have finished the whole post! If you still have questions, you should probably contact me directly.