Ravi Singh, CIMMYT Head of Global Wheat Improvement, receives prestigious Government of India award

L-R: President of India Ram Nath Kovind; Ravi Singh; Minister of External Affairs of India S. Jaishankar at the PBSA announcement ceremony. Photo: Ministry of External Affairs, India

Ravi Singh, Distinguished Scientist and Head of Global Wheat Improvement at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has received the highest honor conferred by the Government of India to non-resident Indians.

The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (PBSA) recognizes outstanding achievements by non-resident Indians, persons of Indian origin, or organizations or institutions run by them either in India or abroad. Awardees are selected for their support to India’s causes and concerns by a committee led by the Vice President and the Minister of External Affairs of India. The awardees, according to the PBSA website, “represent the vibrant excellence achieved by our diaspora in various fields.” The online award announcement ceremony took place on Saturday, January 9, 2021, with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind as a chief guest.

Ravi Singh, whose career at CIMMYT spans 37 years, was recognized for his invaluable contributions to wheat research and the development and training of scientists that have increased food production and nutritional security in Mexico, India and numerous other countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

“The award recognizes and values many years of wheat breeding at CIMMYT, where I had the opportunity, privilege and satisfaction to have contributed and made impacts through our invaluable partners in India and many other countries,” said Singh. “By continuously providing superior varieties, we increased wheat production and incomes of millions of smallholder farming families.”

Singh’s nomination cited his contribution to the development, release and cultivation by national partners worldwide of over 550 wheat varieties over the past three decades. These national partners include the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and its affiliated institutions in India. These varieties, sown annually on over 40 million hectares by as many farmers, add over US$1 billion annually to farmers’ incomes through increased productivity and built-in disease resistance, thus reducing chemical dependence to a negligible level.

“Great teamwork leads to breakthroughs — and is the only way to achieve a common goal. Dr. Ravi Singh’s work alleviating hunger is a great service to mankind,” said Gyanendra Pratap Singh, director of the ICAR Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research (ICAR-IIWBR).

“We are proud to have him on our team.”

“This award recognizes Dr. Ravi Singh’s important contribution to CIMMYT wheat breeding, delivering major impacts to wheat production and smallholder livelihoods in India, and around the world,” said Alison Bentley, director of CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program.

Over his career, Singh has nourished and further expanded an already strong partnership between CIMMYT, ICAR and various agricultural universities in India by developing and sharing each year new, diverse wheat varieties possessing increased grain and straw yields, resistance to diseases such as rusts, spot blotch and blast, climate resilience, and processing and nutritional quality.  

Over the past decade, Singh’s team developed about half of the wheat varieties released in India through the ICAR network. These include the country’s first high-yielding biofortified varieties, WB-2 and PBW1-Zn, released in 2017 to benefit India’s zinc-deficient population.

Millions of farmers in India continue to grow CIMMYT wheat varieties or their derivatives developed by Indian institutions, to ensure safe and abundant harvests and better nutrition.

Ravi Singh’s numerous recognitions include membership as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Phytopathological Society (APS), the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and India’s National Academy of Agricultural Science (NAAS).  His awards include the Outstanding CGIAR Scientist Award, the CSSA Crop Science Research Award, the University of Minnesota E.C. Stakman Award, and the China State Council’s Friendship Award, among others. He has been included among the top 1% of highly cited researchers according to Clarivate Analytics-Web of Science every year since 2017. Singh also serves as Adjunct Professor at Cornell University and Kansas State University.

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