On Saturday 4th July we welcomed the Nigerian Field Society UK branch to the Tropical Glasshouse. This was an especially interesting visit for me because many of the visitors had far more experience of tropical biodiversity, and particularly tropical botany and agriculture than I have. The result was a tour that operated as a question and answer session for me and the visitors.
Among the visitors were academics who had worked at the University of Ibadan, one of Nigeria’s most prestigious Universities, situated in the third largest metropolitan area in Nigeria.
Among the group visiting I was pleased to see Ayo, our Aframomum blogger and MSc student, who has returned for Summer graduation on Thursday. She was keen to see how the plants had grown, to see the first flowering of our Plumeria shrub and the Tacca seedlings as well as to collect a few of the spare scotch bonnet chilli peppers.
The sunny day meant our glasshouse was rather hot, even for those used to tropical heat, so we kept the door and vents fully open during the tour. Among many discussions the issue of how we might breed a new generation of bananas to resisit fungal diseases (such as Panama disease) that are threatening the crop came up. The problem with cultivated bananas is that they are sterile (don’t produce seeds) and therefore crop breeding in conventional ways is not an option. Perhaps this is a crop that really needs genetic engineering to solve its problems?