Prof Rajeev Varshney, an eminent agricultural biotechnologist, with an H index > 100 and ca. 49000 citations has joined Murdoch University on senior leadership positions such as Director, State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre; Director, Centre for Crop & Food Innovation; and International Chair in Agriculture & Food Security. It is a great recognition for India and Indian biotechnology that Australia has picked up an Indian scientist from India to lead their internationally recognised centre for research and development in agriculture and veterinary biotechnology in Western Australia.
Professor Varshney served International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) headquartered in India and led the baton of scientific excellence, translational agriculture, capacity building & impactful partnership for last 16+ years. He joined ICRISAT as Senior Scientist- Applied Genomics in the year 2005 and since then due to his hard work, dedication, perseverance and leadership qualities, he rose to various ranks including Principal Scientist- Applied Genomics (2007-2022), Director, Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology (2007 onward), and three global Research Programs- Grain Legumes (2013- 2016), Genetic Gains (2016- 2021) and Accelerated Crop Improvement (2021- 2022).
Among many of his significant contributions, he is credited to establish & nurture a globally recognized center for genomics research at ICRISAT. This center together with several other programs that he led during his tenure and in collaboration with national programmes and advanced research institutes from India and many countries from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, Europe, North America and South America, he delivered immensely on high quality upstream and translational research.
To highlight some, he led the genome sequencing of 11 tropical crops; advanced genetics and enhanced trait understanding, developed gene expression atlases, mapped more than 50 traits in legume crops and spearheaded the translational research together with partners to deliver more than 10 improved, climate change ready legumes crop varieties developed through molecular breeding approach. His collaborative efforts have delivered huge genomic resources for these crops and have helped them shed the tag of orphan crops, as they were known earlier due to lack of genomic resources.
In addition, to delivering the results in the hands of smallholder farmers, together with his team, collaborators and partners he has introduced several novel genomic concepts and approaches, like, Genomics- assisted breeding (GAB), GAB 2.0, Super- pan genome, 5Gs for crop improvement, Fast-forward breeding, Rapid delivery systems etc. These approaches are being adopted and implemented across several NARS breeding programs to accelerate the scientific research and development and delivery of climate change ready crop varieties.
As a prolific author together with his team, he has delivered on all fronts including advancing the cause of scientific research by publishing more than 500 high quality research articles including 20 papers in Nature journals, which is a rare feat for any research center across the globe.
Prof Varshney’s contributions can be appreciated with an 8- min video https://youtu.be/Jq3flNFMRqs that his colleagues prepared on the occasion of his farewell.
Prof Varshney has extended his gratitude to all his colleagues, collaborators, friends and well wishers in his recent blog post- https://bit.ly/33Oyy3i
While talking exclusively to Biotech Express, Prof Varshney says, “It has been a memorable, productive and a rewarding stint for me while working at ICRISAT in India. As I embark to my new journey, I carry a sense of pride and satisfaction that I have contributed to make a positive impact in the lives of smallholder farmers through integrating advanced genomics discoveries in crop improvement and nurturing the next generation of scientists.” He further said, “Neither science, nor scientists have boundaries for new discoveries and making an impact on society. While I will be leading biotech research and crop & food innovations in Australia, my research is expected to contribute to agriculture in Australia and also India and other parts of world including Africa and Asia”. He added, “Thanks to you, KP Singh for your contributions in taking our research and its impacts to general public and policymakers through Biotech Express magazine.”
Prof Varshney has been a “people’s person” in scientific community at international level. He has an unique skill to interact starting from a research technician to highest level of authorities including Prime Minister, Ministers, CEOs, Directors. This is the reason that more than 170 eminent scientists and researchers and policymakers from the world including including Drs M S Swaminathan, Gurdev Khush, Andrew Bennett, Peter Langridge, Panjab Singh, Kadambot Siddique, Andrew Paterson, Asis Datta, Susanne Brink, SK Pattanayak, Arabinda Padhee, Dyno Keatinge, Henry Nguyen, congratulated Prof Varshney for achievements made during last 16+ years and extended their wishes to him for the start of new journey.
While these messages in details are available at https://bit.ly/3hbOdwM a few messages highlighting contributions of Prof Varshney are provided here:
Working with Rajeev for the last two decades has been a distinct privilege. In addition to being a outstanding scientist, he is a great team leader, wonderful colleague, magnificent friend and a delightful person.
Dr OP Yadav
Wonderful Scientist, Great human being, lovely brother with smiling face. A star in Indian Science. Wishing you all the best. Lord Jagannath bless you.
Dr Ajit Shasany
You have come a long way since 2005. So much has been accomplished in legume genomics because of your talent, vision, and leadership. I am proud to be your collaborator and friend. All the best to you and your family for the next journey in Western Australia.
Prof Henry Nguyen
Director, National Centre for Soybean Research, USA
Please accept my heartiest congratulations on accepting your new assignment. You are a great scientist and will continue to contribute to science of biotechnology wherever you are. We shall miss you but in the digital era we shall remain quite connected. Please do remember me if I could be of any use to you in your new assignment. I wish you and your family all the best in Australia.
Prof. Panjab Singh
Chancellor, RLBCAU, Jhansi
Dr Varshney, a close friend, is a Star Scientist not only for ICRISAT, but for the entire Agri Science community. It was a pleasure to know him during our stint at ICRISAT. I wish him all success in future. May his impactful research help in the wellbeing of smallholder farmers across the planet. We are going to miss him greatly.
Dr Arabinda Kumar Padhee, IAS
Director, Business & Country Relations, ICRISAT
You made your mark and brought laurels to ICRISAT with your unwavering commitment. You took unprecedented initiatives, led from the front, pushed boundaries, made seminal contributions, and showed the world what all can be achieved as a team. With an ‘h-index’ over 100 and citations touching 50,000, you remain on the TOP of the scientific world. Glorious future, Love, Regards-
Prof. KC Bansal
Secretary, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences
As improbable as the prospect of matching, much less surpassing, your prodigious accomplishments at ICRISAT seems, may your future accomplishments be even more astounding! Let us continue with the efforts to make this beautiful planet even better for all its inhabitants.
Prof. Chikelu Mba
Team Leader, Seeds and Plant Genetic Resources, UN FAO, Italy
As you get ready to depart, I would like to convey my warmest best wishes for your continued success in tackling new challenges. You have left excellent footprints of achievements at ICRISAT. I have no doubt you will excel in your new responsibilities at Murdoch University.
Prof Gurdev S. Khush
Fellow of Royal Society,
Member of US National Academy of Sciences
World Food Prize Laureate
On behalf of Indian biotechnology community and our readership, Biotech Express congratulates Professor Varshney for his incredible and impact oriented contributions to agriculture in India and elsewhere and wish him all the best in Australia to continue to raise flag of Indian biotechnology high!