KK Birla Foundation has, recently, honoured Prof. Rajeev K. Varshney, Research Program Director Genetic Gains and Director, Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology at International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad with GD Birla Award for Scientific Research for the year 2018.
The award is a recognition of Prof Varshney’s scientific research and pioneering contributions in integrating advanced discoveries in genomics with crop improvement in developing countries. The award in the scientific community is given to eminent Indian scientists below the age of 50.
The award has been conferred for his contribution of integrating advanced discoveries in genomics with crop improvement in developing countries. He is internationally known for his outstanding contribution in the area of decoding plant genomes, genomics-assisted breeding, and translational genomics for agriculture. He has genome sequences of 9 crops including pigeonpea, chickpea, peanut and pearl millet, >40 genetic and QTL maps and several molecular breeding products in legumes to his credit.
Prof Varshney is recognised as a leader in decoding plant genomes, genomics-assisted breeding (GAB), translational genomics and capacity building in international agriculture. He has made a pioneering contribution by integrating advanced discoveries in genomics with crop improvement in developing countries.
Varshney’s strategic leadership and scientific contribution on decoding genomes has enhanced basic understanding of legume and cereal biology. It is remarkable contribution of an Indian scientist who has led international consortia to undertake large projects. Subsequently, trait mapping, functional genomics approaches were used for dissecting several complex traits and understanding their molecular mechanisms. Prof Varshney led several GAB/molecular breeding projects in legumes. GAB products such as drought tolerant chickpeas, pyramided disease resistant (Fusarium wilt and Ascochyta blight) chickpeas, rust resistant groundnuts and high oil quality groundnuts are some excellent outputs from the high-quality research of Prof Varshney and his colleagues. Several of these lines are in advanced stage of field trials at national level and also in several states of India as well as in several countries of Africa including Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana.
Prof Varshney and his colleagues have made significant contribution in the area of training next generation of scientists as well as dissemination of genome science and molecular breeding in India and developing countries. For instance, his leadership has provided training of >300 scientists and over 80 PhDs/Post-docs in the area of genomics and molecular breeding. Prof Varshney has been at the forefront to organise several international and national conferences and workshops. He ensures participation of scientists/ students as well as policy-makers from developing countries to discuss topical issues in agriculture and possible deployment of modern tools and technologies of genome science for food and nutritional security.