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NRI student tackling cassava disease wins top biotech sponsorship

Siji Kavil 750Siji Kavil, PhD student at NRI, is serious about cassava brown streak disease (CBSD). That’s because it’s a serious disease affecting cassava, the tropical root that is an important crop for food and nutrition security in many parts of the developing world. CBSD causes cassava roots to rot, displaying unsightly brown streaks and making them unfit for consumption or industrial use. During the past decade, CBSD has affected over 200 million smallholder farmers in east and central Africa, where it causes annual losses of over US $700 million. This is devastating for the farming families who rely on cassava for their daily food and income.

Siji is studying cassava at a molecular level, in order to understand which genes are responsible for resistance to CBSD. The ultimate goal of this work is to give plant breeders better tools to take advantage of cassava’s natural resistance to the disease. This year, Siji won a Gold sponsorship with top biotech company, Primerdesign, based in Southampton, UK, giving her hands-on training, technical support and specialised equipment.

Read the full version of this story in our 'Student profiles' section. If you are a current or former student of NRI and you would like to be featured in this section, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to set up an interview.

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