Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Celebrating the contributors to agriculture


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various personalities that contributed to India's food reaserch

Mains level : Paper 3- Contributors to the India's agri-research

This article introduces us to the Indian winners of the prize that is considered as the Nobel for research in food. Their contribution has benefited agriculture immensely.Here, we’ll get a brief idea about their work.

Word Food Prize

  • The World Food Prize is often described as the Nobel for research in food.
  • It was set up by Ñorman Borlaug.
  • Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1972 for his work on hybridisation of wheat and rice.
  • His work led to the Green Revolution in the mid-1960s.

Indian winners of the award

  • The awards to eight Indians of the total of 50 given so far are a tribute to the country’s agricultural university education and research system.
  • The country should celebrate their achievements unabashedly when 7-10 million new productive jobs need to be created annually.
  • And when it accounts for a third of global undernourished.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has made job creation and improved nutrition and health more urgent than ever.

Let’s look at the contributions made by these personalities

 Rattan Lal

  • Rattan Lal was awarded for developing and mainstreaming a soil-centric approach to increasing food production.
  • This approach also restores and conserves natural resources and mitigates climate change.
  • His research has shown that growing crops on healthy soils produces more food from less land area, less use of agrochemicals, less tillage, less water, and less energy.

M S Swaminathan

  • Swaminathan’s vision transformed India from a “begging bowl” to a “breadbasket” almost overnight.
  • His work helped bringing the total crop yield of wheat from 12 million tonnes to 23 million tonnes in four crop seasons.
  • Which helped in ending India’s dependence on grain imports.

Verghese Kurien

  • Kurien, received the prize in 1989 for India’s white revolution.
  • Under his leadership, milk production increased from 23.3 million tonnes (1968-69) to 100.9 million tonnes (2006-07).
  • And now it is projected to reach 187 million tonnes for 2019-20.
  • This helped in bringing millions of small and marginal farmers, including women into the marketplace.

 Ramlal Barwale

  • Barwale, a small farmer and entrepreneur, received the award in 1996.
  • He made selling seeds of okra and sorghum “hip” and founded the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company.
  • The Crop Science Society of America has called him father of the seed industry in India.
  • He introduced hybrid rice from China to India.

Surinder Vasal

  • Vasal was given the prize in 2000 for developing quality protein maize (QPM).
  • Integrating cereal chemistry and plant breeding techniques, Vasal and Villegas of Mexico collaborated to work on “opaque-2” maize variety using molecular biology techniques.
  • In the mid-1980s, they produced a QPM germplasm with hard kernel characteristics and taste like that of the traditional grain.
  • But it has much higher quality levels of lysine and tryptophan, thereby enhancing the nutrition value.

Mododugu Gupta

  • Gupta received the award in 2005 for starting a blue revolution.
  • He developed two exceptional approaches for increasing fish harvests among the very poor.
  • This helped in increasing the protein and mineral content in the diets of over one million of the world’s most impoverished families.
  •  Gupta’s aquaculture technologies boosted Bangladesh’s fish yields from 304 kg per hectare to over 2,500 kg per hectare in less than a year — including 1,000 kg per hectare harvests in the dry season.

Sanjaya Rajaram

  • Rajaram, who won the prize in 2014.
  • He succeeded Borlaug in leading CIMMYT’s wheat breeding programme.
  • There he went on to develop an astounding 480 varieties that have been widely adopted by both small and large-scale farmers.
  • Rajaram was born near a small farming village in Uttar Pradesh and received his master’s degree from IARI.

Decreasing government support

  • The awardees all come from the time of the green and rainbow revolutions (of dairy and aqua-culture).
  • It was also the time when India invested heavily in agricultural science education and research and Indian scientists shone brightly in the global galaxy of science.
  • Government support for state agricultural universities, and research conducted by the ICAR and the departments of science and technology and biotechnology has slipped in recent years.
  • Today, not a single Indian university is counted among the top 100 in the world.
Consider the question asked by the UPSC in 2019 “How was India benefitted from the contributions of Sir M.Visvesvaraya and Dr M. S. Swaminathan in the fields of water engineering and agricultural science respectively?”


Students and faculty at ICAR and state agricultural universities can follow in their footsteps and achieve scientific excellence, if they receive the resources and their work is supported with incentives.

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Rambo Here
3 years ago

Good article, who is the 8th one among them ?

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3 years ago
Reply to  Rambo Here

Gurdev khush – Developing “miracle rice” varieties that doubled rice production in Asia since their development.


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