ICRISAT bids farewell to Dr Rajeev K Varshney after sixteen years of transformative agriculture research creating impact in dryland regions
On 15 Feb 2022, after serving ICRISAT for more than 16 years and leading the baton of scientific excellence, translational agriculture, capacity building & impactful partnerships, Dr Rajeev has now moved on to lead new positions and provide strategic leadership at Murdoch University, Australia.
Dr Varshney joined ICRISAT as Senior Scientist- Applied Genomics in the year 2005 and since then with his hard work, dedication, perseverance and leadership qualities made significant contributions towards the institutional goals and missions in creating impact in the dryland regions of the world. During the process of creating this impact, he climbed his way up to the third highest position in the institute and was serving as Global Research Program Director for Accelerated Crop Improvement Program.
Among many of his significant contributions, he had the onus of establishing and nurturing a globally recognized centre for genomics research at ICRISAT. The centre together with several other programs that he led at ICRISAT during his tenure and in collaboration with national partners both from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (and ARIs from North Americas, Europe and Australia) have delivered high quality upstream and translational research. To highlight some, he led the effort on genome sequencing of ICRISAT mandate and less researched crops: advanced genetics and enhanced trait understanding, developed gene expression atlases, mapped more than 50 traits in legume crops and spearheaded the translational research along with partners to deliver more than 10 improved, climate change ready legume crop varieties developed through molecular breeding approach. His collaborative efforts have generated large genomic resources for these crops leading to the shedding of the tag of orphan crops, as they were known earlier due to lack of genomic resources.
In addition, to delivering the research results in the hands of smallholder farmers, along 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 National agricultural Research Systems (NARS) breeding programs especially in Africa and Asia to accelerate the scientific research and development and delivery of climate change ready crop varieties.
His high quality science and strong network of international partnership increased the visibility of ICRISAT globally. As a prolific author, he and his team, 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 centre across the globe.
Expressing his gratitude to ICRISAT his home for 16 years, Dr Varshney said, “It has been a memorable, productive and a rewarding stint for me at ICRISAT. As I move on 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, nurtured next generation of scientists and advanced the crop modernisation efforts for delivering on the mission of ICRISAT and Science.” He added, “I am thankful to ICRISAT for providing me the platform for conducting high quality science and to all the Governing Board members, Director Generals, Deputy Director Generals for Research, and senior leadership over the last 16 years for their continued support and all colleagues from all the ranks at ICRISAT as well as collaborators around the world for their full support and collaboration.” He further said, “I am going to miss this place but at the same time look forward to carry our collaborative research forward from different avenues and will continue to contribute to enhance the visibility and promote the mission and vision of ICRISAT.”
While appreciating his contribution to ICRISAT’s mission and vision, Director General, Dr Jacqueline Hughes said, “You have done huge amount of work at ICRISAT, and with your leadership role at Murdoch University, we look forward to continue to work together on common goals. Your move to Australia is win-win for everyone, including ICRISAT and Murdoch University and I wish you all the best”.
Dr Arvind Kumar, DDG-R ICRISAT remembering his long-standing collaboration with Dr Varshney, said “the association that I had with Rajeev helped us put things on track quickly and advance our efforts in the area of research and development at ICRISAT, when I joined ICRISAT. I thank Rajeev for conducting high quality science and taking the genomics research for smaller crops at international level, your efforts have not only benefitted ICRISAT but also the international community. We look forward to continue to work together and I wish you best of luck for your new role.”
Dr Varshney is starting his next chapter as Director, State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre; Director, Centre for Crop & Food Innovation; and International Chair in Agriculture & Food Security with the Murdoch University. ICRISAT wishes him and his family all the best for a successful career and peaceful life and sound health in Australia!