‘Father of Wheat Revolution’ D.S. Athwal passes away in US

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LUDHIANA

Often called the ‘Father of Wheat Revolution’, agriculture scientist Dilbagh Singh Athwal has passed away in the US, a Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) official said on Monday. He was 89.

Vice Chancellor B.S. Dhillon, officers and scientists of the university paid tributes to Athwal, who died on Sunday, at a condolence meeting held at the PAU campus here.

Dhillon said the outstanding contributions made by Athwal in the field of agriculture “remain unsurpassable till date”.

“Dr Athwal was one of the stalwarts who played a pivotal role in initiating Green Revolution in the country. He was a well-known geneticist, plant breeder and agricultural scientist of international repute,” Dhillon said.

“Athwal developed world’s first grain pearl millet hybrid ‘Hybrid Bajra 1’ in 1965 that heralded a new era in cultivation of this important crop,” he said.

Athwal was instrumental in developing ‘PV 18’ in 1966 and the most popular amber grained wheat variety ‘Kalyansona’ in 1967, named after the village ‘Kalyanpur’ in Punjab where Athwal was born in 1928.

Punjab, known as the ‘Green Revolution’ state, had heralded India’s campaign to ensure food grain security for the country in the 1960s.

Athwal served as founder head of Department of Plant Breeding in PAU, and made contributions to the genetics and breeding of pearl millet, wheat, gram and tobacco.

A large number of genetic stocks developed by him made a significant contribution to future research on bajra breeding and genetics.

In 1967, he joined the management of International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and eventually served as the Institute’s first Deputy Director General. At IRRI, he introduced many innovations in rice breeding.

The University of Sydney bestowed the degree of Doctor of Philosophy on him in 1955.

In 1964, he was conferred with Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which is the highest Indian award in the science category.

He was also decorated with Padma Bhushan in 1975 by the government for his contributions to biological science. After his retirement, he settled in New Jersey, US, where he breathed his last.

The university has named its new guest house after his name as ‘Dr. D.S. Athwal International Guest House’.

As a mark of respect to Athwal, the PAU remained closed for half a day.