The Indian Scientist who developed High-yielding 300 varieties of Rice – Dr. Gurdev Singh Khush

Dr. Gurdev Singh Khush was born (in a Sikh family) on  22nd August 1935 in the village of Roorkee, in the Jalandhar district of Punjab. He graduated from Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, in 1955 and then went to the USA where he earned his Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of California, Davis, in 1960. He joined the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in the Philippines as a Rice Breeder for producing improved strains of rice. He developed more than 300 high-yielding varieties of rice with superior grain, disease-free and insect-resistant, which are grown now in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. As a result, the rice-growing countries became self-sufficient in rice and several have an exportable surplus.

Research Activities of Dr. Khush

Dr. Khush used the high-yielding rice variety IR 8 as a genetic base and by crossing it with 13 varieties from six different nations, developed IR 36. This is highly resistant to most insects, pests, and diseases. It matures early, in 110 days, compared to 130 days taken by IR 8. Earlier varieties used to mature in 150 to 170 days. It has a fine grain and was immediately accepted. It was planted in 11 million hectares of rice land during the 1980s and became the most widely planted variety of rice. No other rice (or another food crop) variety was planted in a larger area. IR 64 with even higher yield and highly palatable grains replaced IR36 and is now the most widely planted variety of rice in the world.

A former Director General of IRRI, Philippines, pointed out the impact of this work by saying “While Dr. Khush’s name may have passed the lips of many; his life’s work has passed the lips of almost half the humanity.” Dr. Khush has made major contributions to advancing the frontiers of Rice Genetics. He constructed genetic linkage groups of rice and associated them with respective chromosomes (the structures inside plant or animal body cells). Earlier, there was no agreement on numbering rice chromosomes. With Japanese scientists, he devised a universally acceptable rice chromosome numbering system. Dr. Khush has authored eight books. He also edited six books in collaboration with other scientists. Besides, he has published more than 350 research papers.

Some of the Recognitions and Awards received by Dr. Khush

In 1977, Dr. Khush was given the Borlaug Award for Plant Breeding. This was followed by Japan’s Highest prize given by Prince Akihito on behalf of the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan, in 1987. University of California (Davis) selected him for the Emil Mark International Award in 1990. In 1995, he was (the First Sikh) elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), London. In 1996, he was given the prestigious World Food Prize (equivalent to Nobel Prize) for his research contributions.  Rank Prize (1998) by the UK, followed by Wolf Prize (2000) by Israel, Golden Sickle Award (2007) by Thailand, and Mahathir Science Award (2009) by Malaysia were expressions of deep appreciation of his excellent work. India bestowed Padma Shri on Dr. Khush in 2001 for his work in agricultural Sciences.

(Getting Japan’s Highest Scientific Award)

Dr. Khush is a Member of several Scientific Academies, including the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), the US National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), and The Chinese Academy of Sciences.

          Work as International Advisor and Consultant

Dr. G. S. Khush is Advisor-cum-Consultant of many International organizations. These include five top US Rice Research Foundations and Projects of the University of California, Norman Borlaug Institute for Plant Research, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), Italy, International Foundation for Sciences, Sweden, Crop Genetics improvement and Super Green Rice Projects of China, Center for Research in Biotechnology for Agriculture and Oil Palm Board, Kuala Lumpur, National Institute of Crop Sciences, Tsukuba, Japan, Agrotechnology Center of Excellence in Plant, Animal and Human Nutritional Sciences, Lleida University, Spain, International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, Syria, Weizmann Seeds Science Park, Israel and Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.  

He has directed several Rice Improvement Programs in many countries of the world. He served as President of the Society for Advancement of Breeding Research in Asia and Oceania (SABRAO). As President of the “Dr. G.S. Khush Foundation for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences”,  established by him in 2010, he donated generously for scholarships to needy students of Punjab Agricultural University (his alma mater) and Guru Angad Dev University of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Ludhiana, in Punjab.  Dr. Khush is on the Editorial Board of six Journals: Theoretical & Applied Genetics (TAG), Plant Breeding Abstracts, Journal of Crop Improvement, Journal of Crop Production, Journal of Plant Genetics, and Rice Genetics Newsletter (Founding Editor). He has written a book: “A Rice Breeder’s Odessey”, an Autobiography giving interesting details of his Life and Research work. ( PAU, Ludhiana)


“Agriculture not only gives Riches to a Nation but the Only Riches –

She can call her Own.”  Samuel Johnson (Englisher Thinker)


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