I doubt that many Punjabis are aware that Punjabi scientists, many of whom have prior affiliations with the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), have played a key role in solving the problems of world food availability by spear heading research on enhancing rice productivity at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquartered in the Philippines and with offices in 14 countries. More than half of the world’s 6.7 billion people are rice eaters.
Dr. Gurdev Singh Khush a former principal scientist at IRRI, is perhaps the most well known. Dr Khush is an internationally acclaimed rice breeder and geneticist. Dr Khush won the World Food Prize in 1996. He has been awarded by at least 15 countries including China, Japan and Korea, the major rice dependent nations of the world. He is also a recipient of the Padma Shri. Dr Khush has played a key role in the development of more than 300 varieties of rice. He retired from IRRI in 2002 and teaches at the University of California, Davis (UC-Davis)
Dr Khush obtained his agriculture degree at PAU, Ludhiana before going to UC, Davis where he obtained his PhD in genetics. On 15 January 2009, at the convocation ceremonies of the PAU, Dr Khush did something that you don’t hear of in India much. He donated Rs 3.5 crore (approximately US$700,000) to PAU to strengthen its research program. This amount represented the accumulated value of the prize money of various international awards that Dr Khush has received to date. His advice to the young graduates: "Your schooling may be over but, remember, your education will continue forever; learning is a continuous lifelong process. You have the responsibility to improve the quality of life and widen the span of knowledge of our country".
I have had the honor of interacting with Dr Khush. A gentler, humbler, more gracious human being is hard to come by.
More on our other eminent rice research scientists will follow.