• Dr. Gurdev Khush, celebrated rice breeder, donates papers to UC Davis Library

    Dr. Gurdev Khush, celebrated rice breeder, donates papers to UC Davis Library Kevin Miller ,May 8, 2023 Colleagues have referred to him as the “most decorated agricultural scientist in the world.” UC Davis adjunct faculty emeritus Dr. Gurdev Singh Khush is a world-renowned rice breeder and geneticist who won the prestigious…


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  • Symposium in Honor and Memory of Dr. D. S. Brar

    /*! elementor - v3.21.0 - 20-05-2024 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} The Dr GS Khush Foundation in collaboration with the Punjab Agricultural University organized a symposium in honor and memory of prominent geneticist Dr DS Brar at the Dr Manmohan Singh Auditorium here today. The two-day symposium, ‘Transforming the Green Revolution Hub of India: Innovations in Crop Breeding, Resource Management and Policy’, focused on the enhancement of farmers’ income through the promotion of sustainable agriculture. The inaugural session began with the conferment of the first ‘Dr Darshan Singh Brar Award’ to Dr SS Banga, DAE Raja Ramanna Fellow, Professor (Honorary Adjunct), PAU, Ludhiana and former ICAR fellow, followed by Dr Darshan Singh Brar memorial lecture,’ My journey with Brassicas’, delivered by Dr Banga. Dr Ramesh Chand, Member NITI Aayog delivered the Inaugural Lecture on the topic, Reimagining Punjab Agriculture for Enhancing Farmers’ Income and Sustainability of Farming Systems. Dr Rajinder Singh Sidhu, Former PAU Registrar coordinated the session, while Dr Sardara Singh Johl, Former Chancellor, of the Central University of Punjab was the chair.Under the symposium theme, ‘Towards a Post Green Revolution Scenario’, the Lead Lecture was delivered by Dr Pritam Singh, Emiritus Professor of Economics, Oxford Business School, UK. Dr Singh discussed the ecological challenge of the state and how it should shape the social, educational and socio-cultural policy in Punjab. Under the second theme of the symposium, ‘Innovations in Plant Breeding for Sustainable Agriculture’, Dr Arvind Kumar, DDG Research ICRISAT, Dr Ajay Kohli, Director Research, IRRI Philippines, Dr Padam Prakash Bhojvaid, IFS, Former Director, FRI, Dehradun, Dr Anand Pandravada, Corteva Agriscience, Dr Kulwinder Singh Gill, Washington State University, USA and Dr Jaswinder Singh, McGill University, Canada, shared their experiences on topics like genomics assisted innovative breeding for benefit of small farmers, reducing the carbon imprint in the green revolution hub of India and new innovations in cereal breeding. The session was coordinated by Dr NS Bains, Former Director of research, PAU and Dr Deepak Pental, For Delhi University Vice Chancellor was the chair. The symposium also included panel presentations and discussions by experts. Former PAU Vice Chancellor, Dr BS Dhillon and Dr KS Aulakh graced the occasion with their presence. The special session of the day shed light on creation of agricultural scientists of the future, with special emphasis on student centred learning strategies. The lead speaker and session coordinator was Dr Anuradha Agarwal, National Coordinator, National Agricultural Higher Education Project, ICAR, while Dr GK Sangha, Former Dean PGS was the chair. PAU experts, Dr Sandeep Bains, Dean College of Community Science, Dr Vishal Bector, Associate Director, Industrial Linkages, Dr SK Dhillon, Professor, Department of Plant Breeding, Dr JS Sandhu, Principal Biotechnologist, Dr Harminder Singh, Principal Fruit Scientist and others participated in panel discussion and presentations. Dr Kuldeep Singh, Secretary Dr GS Khush Foundation and Dr Vishal Bector conducted the event. Deans and Directors of the University including Dr Shammi Kapoor, Registrar, Dr Ashok Kumar, Director Extension Education, Dr Jaskarn Singh Mahal, Former Director Extension Education, Dr Tejinder Singh Riar, Additional Director, Communication were present at the occasion. A large number of serving and retired scientists, students from different parts of the country and abroad were in attendance at the event. http://www.pau.edu/index.php?_act=manageEvent&DO=viewEventDetail&intID=6707https:


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  • Meet the Blockbuster ‘Rice Man’

    Meet the blockbuster ‘rice man’ who fed the world No food crop in history has been planted in as much area as the varieties developed by Gurdev Singh Khush, the world’s most prolific, and perhaps greatest, rice breeder by Harish Damodaran. He’s to rice, what the ‘Father of the Green Revolution’, Norman Borlaug, was to wheat. But Gurdev Singh Khush – no food crop in history has been planted on as much area worldwide as his blockbuster IR36 and IR64 varieties – is the unlikeliest of rice breeders. For starters, Khush isn’t much of a rice eater: “I prefer wheat and chapati any day”. That makes him quite like the ‘Milkman of India’, Verghese Kurien, who simply disliked milk and could never drink it. More pertinent, though, is that Khush hadn’t really seen paddy fields till he arrived as a 32-year-old at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, The Philippines. That was in end-July 1967. As the eldest son of a farmer Kartar Singh – they were Jat Sikhs from Rurkee village in Phillaur tehsil of Punjab’s Jalandhar district – Khush, born on August 22, 1935, recalls only maize, wheat, moong (green gram) and mash (black gram) being grown on their 15-acre land. “Rice was a minor crop in Punjab then, cultivated in low-lying bet areas around rivers and only for self-consumption,” says the 87-year-old, who was recently at his alma mater Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) to attend a two-day symposium on ‘Transforming the Green Revolution Hub of India’. Its focus was on innovations in plant breeding and policies to promote crop diversification and sustainable farming in Punjab.The record of “not seeing rice”, right through his primary education in the village to the Khalsa High School in Bundala that was about 7 km by walk, continued even at the Government Agricultural College, Ludhiana. Khush graduated from this institution (which, in 1962, became PAU) in June 1955. His good marks secured him admission to the University of California, Davis (UCD) with a half-time assistantship to pursue a Master in Science leading to a PhD. Khush’s PhD research was on rye, a cereal closely related to wheat and barley. His thesis project involved “investigating the genetic affinities between cultivated rye and the wild species”. Not long after its completion in July 1960, he was offered a post-doctoral position by Charles M Rick, the world-renowned authority on tomato biology, as assistant geneticist at UCD’s department of vegetable crops. Khush’s work, for the next seven years, was on mapping and exploring the tomato genome – “all its 12 chromosomes”. So, how did he end up in rice? It was rather accidental. In August 1966, the director of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Robert F. Chandler invited Khush to join the six-year-old institute. Chandler had earlier visited UCD and was looking for a bright young plant breeder to work at IRRI. Within a year’s time, Khush had joined IRRI, where he would spend much of his next 34.5 years: “I became a rice breeder because everybody at IRRI worked on rice!” Working in rice paddies was different from tomatoes, where he could sit near the plants and make crosses in the field. With rice, he had to learn to “carefully remove the plants from muddy fields, put in pots and bring them to greenhouses or covered sheds to make crosses”.Explained|   Is there a crisis in rice? Miracle varietiesIn November 1966, even before Khush’s joining, IRRI had released IR8. This “miracle rice”, a cross between a Chinese dwarf paddy Dee-geo-woo-gen and a tall vigorous Indonesian variety Peta, was developed by two IRRI breeders Henry M. Beachell and Peter Jennings. Traditional tall varieties had plants that were 150-cm-plus-high with weak stems. When fertilisers were applied, they largely grew vertically and bent over (“lodged”). Further, they produced roughly 30% grain and 70% straw, and matured in 160-180 days. Farmers could harvest only 1-3 tonnes of paddy (rice with husk) per hectare. G.S. Khush with IR8 rice breeder Henry Beachell (left) at IRRI’s grain quality lab in 1968. (Express/sourced)IR8, by contrast, had plants that were hardly 95 cm tall and had sturdy stems that didn’t lodge when heavily fertilised. Their grain-straw ratio was 50:50, with only 130 days to maturity. Paddy yields were 4.5-5 tonnes/hectare with minimal fertilisers and could go up to 9-10 tons with the higher application. Not for nothing that K N Ganesan, a farmer from Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, named his son Irettu (IR-ettu; ‘ettu’ is 8 in Tamil). IR8, however, was susceptible to diseases (bacterial blight, blast fungus, tungro and grassy stunt virus) and insect pests (brown plant hoppers, gall midge and stem borer). Its grains had chalkiness (opaque areas leading to undesirable appearance and increased breakage during milling) and high amylose content (causing drying and hardening on cooking). That was where the varieties bred by Khush, particularly IR36 and IR64, made all the difference. IR8 was a simple cross between a Chinese and Indonesian variety. IR36 descended from at least six crosses, one of which involved IR8. In all, it had genes from 14 indigenous landrace varieties of six countries (India: 4, China: 4, Philippines: 3, Indonesia: 1, Bangladesh: 1 and Japan: 1) and one wild rice species (Oryza nivara). The four Indian landraces were two each from Pattambi in Kerala (Thekkan and Eravapandy) and from Tamil Nadu (Kichili Samba and Vellaikar). The objective behind such complex breeding was to develop rice varieties that weren’t merely high-yielding, but incorporated genes from diverse landraces and wild progenitors, conferring resistance to a broad spectrum of pests and diseases. IR36 also scored over IR8 for its even-shorter duration of 111 days, tying in with another breeding objective – to enable farmers to grow two rice crops per year. IR36 was released in May 1976 and went on to be planted in 11 million hectares (mh) annually during the 1980s. No variety – of any food crop, not just rice – had ever previously occupied so much area. IR36 was followed by another blockbuster variety, released in May 1985. IR64 had genes from 20 landraces of eight countries, out-yielded both IR8 and IR36, and possessed multiple diseases and insect resistance. But its USP was the quality of grains: They had intermediate amylose content and gelatinization temperature, resulting in the soft texture of the cooked rice and better palatability. Rice recovery from the milled paddy, too, was higher. IR64 was, by the late-1990s, grown on more than 10 mh annually: 6 mh in Indonesia and 3 mh in India alone.Miracle Khush varieties. Hunger fighterKhush joined IRRI as a breeder and also retired as one in February 2002, showing little interest in administrative positions. Under his leadership – he was formally head of IRRI’s division of plant breeding, genetics and biochemistry – a total of 328 rice breeding lines were released as 643 varieties in 75 countries. Many of these, including IR42 and IR72, were widely planted. Between 1966 and 2000, global rice production rose by 133.5% (from 257 million to 600 million tonnes) with only a 20.6% increase in area (126 to 152 mh). An estimated 60% of the world’s rice area in 2002 was planted to IRRI-bred varieties or their progenies. It isn’t surprising, then, that the legendary agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan described Khush as a “leading world hunger fighter and an icon in rice research”. Rice, incidentally, is the staple food for over half the world’s population, supplying a fifth of the global per capita calorie intake. Beachell and Khush were jointly awarded the World Food Prize in 1996 for their rice breeding work, “which contributed to ensuring that growing populations in Asia and around the world would be supported by sufficient food supplies”. Home ConnectionNone of Khush’s famous rice varieties were grown in Punjab, though he did supply seeds of IRRI’s breeding lines with long slender grains that consumers there preferred. One of these lines was selected and released in 1976 by PAU as PR-106, a popular variety that covered three-fourths of the state’s rice area for over three decades. IR36 and IR64 got planted mostly in eastern, central and southern India. “IRRI varieties were developed in tropical environments and not adapted to the temperate climate of Punjab,” notes Khush. He, moreover, believes that the area under rice in Punjab should be “progressively reduced”. While water-saving DSR (direct-seeded rice) technologies and growing of shorter-duration varieties can help, that isn’t sufficient. Part of the rice area should be replaced with oilseeds and other crops. The government should “give some subsidy to encourage farmers to switch to [alternative] crops”. Khush, who is now adjunct professor emeritus at UCD, hasn’t forgotten his roots. Before the pandemic, Khush used to come almost every year and even visit Rurkee. His younger brother Kirpal Singh Kooner still lives there. Khush’s other two brothers also use ‘Kooner’, a gotra (clan) of Jats, as their last name: “I wrote poetry in Punjabi while in school and chose to give myself a takhallus (nom de guerre). That assumed name (Khush or happy) became my last name”.Khush was destined to be different – and happy. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/gurdev-singh-khush-rice-breeder-ir-varieties-8141097/


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  • Panelists and Participants at the Symposium

    The two-day symposium aimed at transforming the green revolution hub of India, organized by Dr GS Khush Foundation and PAU, in honor of Dr Darshan Singh Brar, concluded here today. In accordance with the theme, ‘Innovations in Resource Management, the keynote speakers, Dr. Suresh Kumar Chaudhry, Deputy Director General, Natural Resource Management, ICAR and Dr Mangi Lal Jat, Global Research Programme Director for Resilient Farms and Food Systems, ICRISAT, dwelled on ecosystem sustainability and enhanced resilience of smallholder agriculture respectively. Dr BS Dhillon former PAU, Vice Chancellor chaired the session, while former PAU, Director of Extension Education, Dr Jaskarn Singh Mahal oversaw the session formalities. Talks on trends in farm mechanization in India and national nutrition security were given by Dr CR Mehta, Director, ICAR-CIAE, Bhopal and Dr Kiran Bains, Head Department of Food and Nutrition followed by panel presentations and discussion. The participants for the same included Dr Rajbir Singh, Director ICAR- Central Institute of Post- Harvest Engineering and Technology, Dr Nachiket Kotwaliwale, Director ICAR- Central Institute of Post Harvest Engineering and Technology, Dr Gurkanwal Singh, Former Director of Horticulture and Shri Prabhat Srivastva, Vice President, Jain Irrigation Systems Limited. The latter part of the day focussed on the way forward for transforming the green revolution hub of the country with a special lecture on Sensing and Data Analytics for Smart Agriculture, delivered by Dr Rabi Narayan Sahoo from ICAR- IARI, New Delhi. The Co-Chairs included Dr Inderjeet Singh, Vice Chancellor, GADVASU, Ludhiana and Dr BR Kamboj , Vice Chancellor, CCS, HAU, Hisar. Dr Ajmer Singh Dhatt, Director of Research, PAU was the session coordinator. The second speaker, Dr Bhupendra Nath Tripathi, Deputy Director General, Animal Science, ICAR discussed agricultural diversification through innovations and policy support in small-scale livestock farming. The session panelists included former PAU Vice Chancellors, Dr KS Aulakh, Dr MS Kang and Dr BS Dhillon, former Chairman, ASRB, New Delhi, Dr Jeet Singh Sandhu, Vice Chancellor, SKN Agriculture University, Jobner, Rajasthan, Vice Chancellors of CCS-HAU and GBPUA&T, Pantnagar- Dr BR Kamboj and Dr AK Shukla, Dr Ashok Kumar, Director IARI, Dr Wasakha Singh Dhillon, Former ADG (Horticulture, ICAR), Dr Partha R Dasgupta, Advisor, Emeritus SYNGENTA Foundation for agriculture, Dr Ashok Kumar, Director, NBPGR, Dr Avtar Singh Dhindsa and other eminent scientists. The program concluded with discussions among experts and the audience followed by a sum-up by the Chairs. The conferring of the Best Poster Award and Appreciation award ceremony was held during the valedictory session, followed by Vote of Thanks by PAU Registrar Dr Shammi Kapoor. Following are the details of the Poster Competition: Under theme 1, out of a total of 6 posters, winners of two best posters, Jiffinvir Singh Khosa, Karamvir Garcha and Ajmer Singh Dhatt, Buta Singh Dhillon, Raj Kumar, GS Romana, Rupinder Kaur, Renu Khanna, Navjot Sidhu and RS Gill were awarded. Under theme 2, out of a total of 84 posters, winners of 3 best posters bagged the prizes, vis a vis Bukke Kutti Bai, Alin Maria Jose, Manindr Kaur, sarabjit Kaur, Jaspal Kaur, Praveen Chhuneja, satinder Kaur, SR Rakshit, Dharminder Bhatia, Sandeep Sharma, Ranvir Gill and JS Lore. Under theme 3, out of a total of 110 posters, the following winners were awarded; Tarandeep Singh, Aseem Verma, Manjit Singh and Jugminder Kaur, Gurjinderpal Jeet Kaur, Jawala Jindal, Radhika Sharma, Jagjit Chand Sharma, and Upender Singh. https://www.pau.edu/index.php?_act=manageEvent&DO=viewEventDetail&intID=6711  


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  • My Miracle Rice

    I worked on rice breeding for 35 years and developed more than 300 high-yielding rice varieties, which came to be known as miracle rice. These were widely adopted and planted all over the world. In India, this gave impetus to the Green Revolution. From being food insecure and on the verge of famine in the 1960s, India has not only become self-sufficient but has also become a food surplus country. I come from a farming family. While I was studying, the opportunities were very limited and I always wanted to go abroad for higher studies and do research. In this, I was encouraged by my father, who was my first mentor. Interestingly, he was the only one from his village, Rurkee, 7 km from Phagwara, to pass from a high school. After graduating from Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, in 1955, I borrowed money from a relative and went to England. There, while I worked in a factory at night to return the borrowed sum, I’d apply for admission to various universities during the day. I was fortunate to get admission with scholarships to three universities in the US. In 1957, I joined the University of California, Davis, which offered me admission to PhD in Genetics with a half-time assistantship. After completing my PhD in 1960, I worked as a faculty member at the same university for seven years. I was researching on tomatoes there when the chairman of my department recommended my name to the director of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines; when he had come to our university looking to hire a young rice breeder. I joined the IRRI in 1967, from where I retired in 2002. Thereafter, I rejoined the University of California as an adjunct professor and worked for another 13 years. I worked on rice breeding for 35 years and developed more than 300 high-yielding rice varieties, which later came to be known as miracle rice. These were widely adopted and planted all over the world, particularly in Asia. In India, this gave impetus to the Green Revolution. From being food insecure and on the verge of famine in the 1960s, India has not only become self-sufficient but has also become a food surplus country. It is the second largest producer of food grains, the largest milk producer, and the second largest producer of vegetables in the world. It has 70 million tonnes of buffer stocks of rice and wheat and is the largest exporter of rice in the world. Because of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, India has become a major exporter of wheat. Yet, 200 million Indians are food insecure and 40 million children below five years of age are stunted. This dilemma of food surplus and food insecurity at the same time is due to poverty and lack of employment for the food insecure people. I come to India almost every year and meet my brother, who still lives in our village. I also visit my alma mater, PAU, in relation with philanthropic activities of my foundation which offers scholarships to needy students. PAU is doing good work in farm research. But research on cellular and molecular biology (biotechnology) is advancing rapidly and we need to invest in new areas of research and make attempts for breakthroughs in increasing food productivity. Countries like China are already investing heavily in basic research. Young scientists should aspire to become world-class professionals. It is vital to keep our country’s food secure through farm research. Our scientists should aim to do research worthy of a Nobel Prize. The breakthroughs in technology should go hand in hand with a rise in GDP and higher income for farmers. I have mixed feelings about subsidies. Some of the subsidies are necessary. For example, fertiliser subsidy was required during the food deficit decades of 1960s and 1970s. The Green Revolution may not have happened if tThe bane of the agricultural sector in India is that the farm size is very little. Nearly 80-90 percent of farms in our country are less than 2 hectares. Besides, the input costs have been increasing rapidly. Too many people are dependent on farming. Slowly and slowly, we have to move more people away from farming and create alternative employment opportunities. Also, the water table is going down due to too much area under rice cultivation. We need to diversify and grow crops that require less water. The area planted for rice should be reduced progressively to less than half of what it is at present. At present, the country spends more than $2 billion on importing edible oils. Alternative crops such as soybean and other pulses and sunflower should be grown instead. Small farmers should grow high-value crops and vegetables. They could invest in animal farms. This will help increase production in poultry and fisheries sectors. Indian scientists have paid less attention to resource management. Efforts should be made to develop newer technologies for water and soil management. Indian soils have, on an average, 0.5 per cent of organic matter, whereas for high productivity, there should be at least 1.5 to 2 percent organic matter. Because of low organic matter, fertilizer-use efficiency is also low. Not much attention has been paid to the practice of ‘conservation agriculture’ which should help improve soil fertility. Water use in agriculture is treated as a free and unlimited resource. Flood irrigation is now the norm all over the country, and a very limited area is under water-saving methods such as sprinkler and drip irrigation. Already, climate change is affecting productivity. Last season, because of high temperatures, the production of wheat was 10 percent less than normal. Bigger dangers lie as the glaciers are melting very fast. A recent consequence has been the floods in Pakistan. Our farm production is also dependent on the water from glaciers that melt in summers. The faster melting of our glaciers would lead to flooding of the Ganga and Sutlej basins. There will be lesser supply of water left for irrigation during summer, eventually affecting food production. Indian farmers should aim to produce healthy food free of chemicals and other contaminants. Less attention has been paid to improving the micronutrient content of cereals. Thus, the poor in India suffer from a lack of adequate amounts of zinc, iron and Vitamin A in their diet. On the other hand, we have changing food habits, which are a natural outcome of urbanisation and improved living standards. An increasing number of Indians can now afford high-value foods such as meat, milk, fruits and vegetables. They derive fewer calories from cereals such as wheat and rice. Thus, greater amounts of wheat and rice are now available for export. Urbanisation leads to the consumption of processed foods. This, combined with over-consumption, are contributing to the increase in obesity. It is estimated that 70 percent of Indians will live in urban areas by 2050. This will impact the incidence of obesity, and healthcare costs will increase.here had been no subsidy for fertiliser. At the same time, higher levels of fertiliser subsidies have led to the overuse of fertiliser, leading to water and environmental pollution. The provision of free electricity for tubewells in Punjab is a bad use of subsidy. I have worked for almost 60 years now. Though I no longer hold any office, I continue to work with young scientists who are doing research work. The best thing I can do is share my experiences and work with younger people. — Based in California, the writer is an acclaimed agronomist and geneticist (As told to Seema Sachdeva) https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/my-miracle-rice-432775


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