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 World Food Prize in 1996 for developing varieties of rice that fight hunger in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These varieties, particularly IR36 and IR64, have a higher yield, shorter growth period, and superior grain quality, and are disease- and pest-resistant. We are honored to announce that Dr. Khush has donated his papers to Archives and Special Collections at the UC Davis Library. 

Born in a modest village in the Punjab region of British India, Dr. Khush committed himself to his education, eventually traveling abroad to earn his PhD in 1960 at UC Davis, where he studied with pioneering plant geneticist G. Ledyard Stebbins. A postdoctoral position led to seven more years at UC Davis, mapping and exploring the tomato genome with Charles Rick, before Dr. Khush accepted a position at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, where he would spend the majority of his career. During the nearly three decades that he headed the plant breeding department, Dr. Khush and his IRRI colleagues developed over 300 varieties of high-yield rice, contributing to the nearly triple-fold growth in world rice production during that period. 

In 2002, Dr. Khush returned to UC Davis as adjunct professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, a position he held until his retirement in 2017. The following year, he received the UC Davis Medal, the highest honor the university bestows, joining numerous other recognitions, including the Japan Prize, Rank Prize, Wolf Prize in Agriculture, and Mahathir Science Award. Dr. Khush’s academic legacy includes three books, numerous edited works and scientific papers, and at least fifty graduate student mentees. 

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