WINNERS ANNOUNCED: TEEAL Graduate Student Research Paper Competition 2011

The TEEAL Project is very excited to announce the final outcome of the recent graduate student research paper competition!

More than 85 papers were submitted to the competition, and 36 papers met all the eligibility requirements and were submitted by the contest deadline. A distinguished panel of three judges drawn from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University reviewed all the research papers.  Judging criteria included:  clarity of thesis development, methodology, quality of analysis, and completeness and diversity of references. After the papers were reviewed and scored by each judge, they were returned to the TEEAL Project Office for final review and the calculation of the final score for each paper. Anonymity of contestants was strictly maintained.

Please join us in congratulating the winners, who are listed below along with the abstracts for their papers:

CATEGORY 1: Best research paper by a PhD student – first prize $1000 and second prize $500

FIRST PRIZE: Nouhoun BELKO -- Regional Research Center for Improvement of Crops Adaptation to Drought (CERAAS) / Sénégal
PAPER TITLE: "Low Vegetative Growth and Limited Leaf Transpiration Rate in Response to High Atmospheric Vapor Pressure Deficit are Correlated with Late Season Drought Tolerance in Cowpea"

Terminal drought is one of the major abiotic constraints that limit cowpea productivity since the crop is sown late in the rainy season and grown under warm weather on sandy soils with low water-holding capacity. For improving performance of annual crops facing end-of-cycle drought like Cowpea, conservative water-use mechanisms are crucial. In this work, the growth, transpiration rate [TR], canopy temperature [CT] and index of canopy conductance [Ig] of twelve cowpea genotypes contrasting for their response to late season droughts in the field were tested under non-limited water conditions across different vapor pressure deficit [VPD] to investigate whether tolerant and sensitive genotypes differ for the control of leaf water-loss. Overall, there was a consistent trend of lower plant vegetative growth in tolerant than in sensitive lines grown in the glasshouse. Substantial differences were recorded among lines for their TR response to natural change of VPD during the course of an entire day with tolerant lines showing significantly lower leaf TR than sensitive ones especially at the time with the highest VPD values. Significant variations were found among lines for their TR response to increasing VPD in growth chamber with some tolerant lines exhibiting a clear VPD breakpoint at 2.25 kPa above which there was very little increase in leaf TR. In contrast, the sensitive lines presented a linear increase in their TR as VPD increased. CT estimated by thermal imagery correlated well with TR and therefore could be used as a proxy for TR. These results indicated that the control of leaf water-loss in response to atmosphere-canopy VPD discriminated tolerant from sensitive cowpea lines and may, therefore, be used as reliable indicator of terminal drought tolerance in cowpea. The water saving characteristics exhibited by some genotypes are hypothesized to make more water being available in the soil layers for pod filling stage, which is crucial in the situations of terminal drought. 
KEYWORDS: Growth parameters, Canopy temperature, Terminal drought tolerance, Thermal imagery, Leaf conductance, Vapor pressure deficit, Vigna unguiculata.

SECOND PRIZE: LAURA C. OKPALA -- Ebonyi State University, Department of Food Science and Technology / Nigeria 
PAPER TITLE: "Modelling and optimization of biscuits utilizing composite flour blends by mixture response surface methodology"

Biscuits were produced from blends of pigeon pea (PF), sorghum (SF) and cocoyam flours (CF). The study was carried out using mixture response surface methodology (MRSM) as the optimization technique. Using the simplex centroid design, ten formulations were obtained. Protein and sensory quality of the biscuits were analyzed. The sensory attributes studied were colour, taste, texture, crispness and general acceptability while the protein quality indices were biological value (BV) and net protein utilization (NPU). The results showed that while the addition of PF improved the protein quality, its addition resulted in reduced sensory ratings for all the sensory attributes with the exception of colour. The BV and NPU values obtained for most of the biscuits were above minimum recommended values. Optimization suggested biscuits containing 75.30%SF, 0%PF and 24.70% CF as the best proportion of these components. This sample received good scores for the sensory attributes. The findings of this work have shown that MRSM is an adequate approach for modelling the sensory and protein quality of biscuits made from pigeon pea, sorghum and cocoyam flour blends.

CATEGORY 2: Best research paper by an MSc student – first prize $500 and second prize $250

FIRST PRIZE: we have a tie for first prize! 

FIRST PRIZE (tie): Ogero Kwame Okinyi -- Kenyatta University, School of Agriculture and Enterprise Development / Kenya

Food insecurity is a major concern and barrier to development in most African countries. The situation is worsened by ever changing climatic conditions which has led to reduced food production in the continent. Adoption of drought-tolerant crops such as cassava can help alleviate this situation. However, their production is constrained by lack of disease-free planting materials. Embracing modern technologies such as tissue culture is therefore necessary in order to improve this situation. Unfortunately, despite its capability to produce a large number of disease-free planting materials, tissue culture is very costly hence out of reach for resource-challenged farmers. There is therefore, need to put in place interventions that will reduce the cost of production hence making tissue culture products more affordable to farmers. In this research, a low cost protocol for cassava tissue culture was developed and used to regenerate two farmer-preferred cassava varieties, KME 1 and Muchericheri. Easygro® vegetative fertilizer, a locally available foliar feed was used as an alternative source for conventional MS salts. Nodal explants were initiated on a low cost medium containing 2 g/l of Easygro® vegetative fertilizer supplemented with 30 g/l of table sugar and 9 g/l of agar and conventional medium containing MS salts supplemented with 30 g/l of sucrose and 9 g/l of agar. The conventional MS medium was used as the control. The number of leaves, nodes, roots and average plant heights for the resultant plantlets on the two media were determined and compared. The variety Muchericheri had a significantly higher regeneration index compared to KME 1 having produced a mean of 6.8 nodes on the low cost medium and 5.6 nodes on the conventional medium compared to KME 1 which had a mean of 5.6 nodes on the low cost medium and 4.5 nodes on the conventional medium. This is an indication that Muchericheri had a better regeneration efficiency compared to KME 1.
KEYWORDS: low cost medium, nodal explants, foliar feed, regeneration efficiency

FIRST PRIZE (tie): Olagoke Ayobami Olaniyi -- University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (UNAAB) / Nigeria
PAPER TITLE: "Effect of free range and deep litter production systems on the performance and meat composition of cockerel chickens"

A study was carried out on 150 cockerel chickens each of Harco Black and Novogen strains; to determine their performance and meat composition on free range and deep litter production systems. The birds were brooded for 4 weeks and thereafter allotted to the different production systems for a period of 12 weeks. Each production system was allotted 150 chicks (75 chicks per strain) with three replicates of 25 chicks. The birds on deep litter production system were fed ad libitum while each bird on free range was fed 50% of its daily feed requirement. On the 84th day, a total of 36 birds were randomly selected for analysis of the carcass yield and meat composition. The data generated were subjected to a two-way analysis of variance in a 2×2 factorial experimental arrangement. The results showed that the production systems (deep litter and free range) and strains (Harco black and Novogen) gave similar results by factors though higher percentage mortality was recorded in birds reared on free range. Similar results were obtained in the interaction between production system and strain on the performance of cockerel chickens. Novogen strain on free range recorded the highest (P<0.05) value of 38% in mortality while Harco black on deep litter recorded the least value (6%). Harco Black strain gave higher meat : bone in the production systems. A higher (P<0.05) shear force value (3.74) was obtained in the thigh muscle for birds on free range. Significant (P<0.05) differences were found in the taste and flavor of grilled cockerel meat with Novogen strain having the highest values of 8.00 and 7.50, respectively. Conclusively, Harco black strain should be raised on free range for better performance and meat composition than Novogen strain.
KEYWORDS: Performance, free range, deep litter, meat composition, cockerel chicken

SECOND PRIZE: Catherine Kadogo Kitonde -- University of Nairobi, School of Biological Sciences / Kenya
PAPER TITLE: "Antimicrobial Activity and Phytochemical Study of Vernonia glabra (Steetz) Oliv. & Hiern. in Kenya"

 Infectious diseases are prevalent and life threatening in Kenya. Majority of the sick are seeking herbal remedies in search of effective, safe, and affordable cure. This project aims to investigate the antimicrobial activity and presence of active phytochemical compounds in different parts of Vernonia glabra; a plant used by herbalists in various regions of Kenya, for the treatment of gastrointestinal problems. The plant sample was collected in January 2010 in Machakos, and different parts dried at room temperature under shade, ground into powder and extracted in Dichloromethane: Methanol in the ratio 1:1, and water. These crude extracts were tested against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Candida albicans, and Aspergillus niger for antimicrobial activity using disc diffusion technique. Minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) for active crude extracts were done using disc diffusion technique after the failure of agar and broth dilution methods. It was observed that the organic crude extracts of flower, leaf, stem, root, and/or entire plant, showed activity against one or four micro-organisms, and at concentrations lower than the aqueous crude extracts. Organic crude extract of the leaf showed the highest activity against Staphylococcus aureus (mean inhibition zone 1.85), recording higher activity than the commercially used standard antibiotic (Streptomycin mean inhibition zone of 1.30). The organic crude extract of flower showed significant activity only against S.aureus, with the lowest MIC of 1.5625mg/100µl, compared to streptomycin with M.I.C of 6.25mg/100µl. Thin Layer Chromatography-Bioautography Agar-Overlay showed that, flower alkaloids (50% active), root sapogenins (43.8% active), and root terpenoids (38.5% active) were identified as the potential antibacterial compounds against S.aureus. These results suggest that, V.glabra contains phytochemicals of medicinal properties and justify the use of V.glabra in traditional herbal medicine for the treatment of microbial based diseases. 
KEYWORDS: Vernonia glabra, Antimicrobial activity, and Phytochemicals.

Of course, a sincere congratulations - and thank you - to ALL our participants. All of us at TEEAL greatly appreciate all your efforts and continue to wish you the best of luck in your educational and/or professional endeavors. For any additional questions or comments, please do not hesitate to email us at the TEEAL Project at:

With continued best regards,
- the TEEAL Project staff