Samjhana KHANAL, Master’s Student in Plant Breeding and Genetics (Nepal)

Samjhana Khanal is studying as Orange Knowledge scholar fellow for her master’s degree in Plant breeding and Genetics at Wageningen University. She aims to develop better seed (Maize, Quinoa) for her home country Nepal as well as for other developing countries for a sustainable future. Better seeds would be more tolerant to drought and should at the same time contain more nutrients that help to prevent malnutrition.

WAGENINGEN UNIVERSITY & RESEARCH, NETHERLANDS

Research focus: plant breeding, genes and genomics, and biotechnology

More than two million people in developing and threshold countries like Nepal, Nigeria, India, and Pakistan suffer from malnutrition or undernutrition, which can cause serious diseases and may result in an increased infant mortality rate. This problem is addressed by UN SDG No. 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Most of the people living in Nepal cannot supplement their diet with expensive fruits and other quality foods. People in countries of the developing world largely have to depend on rice, wheat or maize as their daily food. For this reason, Samjhana works on growing quality maize, Quinoa with additional proteins, vitamins and other essential nutrients. Since maize is often threatened by drought due to climate change, she is also researching drought tolerant seeds and resistant varieties of maize, the genetics and epigenetics of drought tolerance and its associated traits using omics technology.

Samjhana is an award winning social activist and young researcher from Nepal. Apart from researches, she often organizes several agricultural campaigns in Nepal and advocates for right dose/usage of fertiliser in crop growth and food security. Soil quality analysis helps to find the right dose of fertiliser to minimize the risk of nitrogen and phosphorus leaching from fields into the rivers and the ocean.

The overall goal of Samjhana’s research is to produce more food with less input without compromising the quality while maintaining a minimum impact on soil and environment. She focuses on the concept of doubling the food production at half the ecological food print for zero hunger and green economy.

The jury recognised the importance of this socially engaged, talented, and young scientist’s work: to not only find more resistant seeds but to improve the grain harvested to fight malnourishment.