Tuesday, May 14, 2024

In memory of Dr. Uma Shankar Singh

IRRI mourns the passing of its esteemed former and founding South Asia Regional Centre director Dr. Uma Shankar Singh, on May 9, 2024.

Dr. Singh was a luminary in the field of agricultural science, particularly renowned for his expertise in seed management and eco-friendly approaches to plant disease control. His contributions have left an indelible mark on the agricultural landscape in India and beyond.

Dr. Singh's illustrious career spanned pivotal roles in numerous scientific committees. His dedication was evident in his election to several fellowships and serving in various national-level organizations such as the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the Indian Phytopathological Society, among others. In his latest role with IRRI, he also served as an advisor for Asia and Africa.

He played an instrumental role in the establishment and shaping of the IRRI South Asia Regional Centre in Varanasi. Under his leadership, the visionary initiative “Seeds Without Borders” was formalized to accelerate regional cooperation on seed sharing and varietal development without compromising seed quality, winning him the AAAS David and Betty Hamburg Award for Science Diplomacy in 2023.  

Dr Singh introduced many innovations, including targeted dissemination of stress-tolerant rice varieties using GIS and remote sensing, and tracking their diffusion through informal and formal seed sectors and ground surveys. His pre-release varietal seed multiplication initiative, coupled with the promotion and linking of varietal dissemination with mega developmental schemes, improved and speeded-up seed multiplication and the diffusion of stress-tolerant rice varieties in South Asia.

Dr. Singh began his career at G.B. Pant University of Science and Technology where he served for 24 years, including eight as Professor of Pathology.

It was during this period that he won the highest accolades of his profession, including the Pesticide India Award (1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1999, 2000, 2004); Professor M.J. Narasimhan Academic Merit Award, 1985; Outstanding Scientist Award of GBPUAT, Pantnagar, 2004; Uttaranchal Ratan, 2005; Sipani Krishi Anusandhan Award, 2005. He served on the advisory bodies of Research Institutions and Universities across India , including the National Centre for Integrated Pest Management and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, as a member of the Governing Body of the Jharkhand Agriculture Development Council (IADC) Krishi Samridhi Ayog, and the Apex Committee shaping India's pesticide research and development policy.

Dr. Singh's passion for advancing agricultural knowledge transcended borders, as demonstrated by his tenure as a visiting scientist at Rothamsted Research in the UK.

Dr. Ajay Kohli, Deputy Director General for Research at IRRI said, “Dr. Singh’s demise is an immense loss to the agricultural research community. He was not just an excellent scientist and an empathetic mentor, but a very able administrator as well. His vision was to take the products of agricultural research to farmers to help alleviate poverty and hunger in South Asia. We have not just lost a visionary researcher, scientist and administrator but I have also lost a dear friend.”

Dr. Singh’s commitment to food security and agriculture went beyond his passion for rice. Only recently did he begin working for the International Potato Center (CIP), and he quickly helped advance significant efforts around potato and sweet potato production in India and Asia.

“Those of you who knew him will always remember his expertise, energy, and kindness,” said Dr. Simon Heck, CIP director general. “I’ve had the privilege of working with him closely over the past year and witnessed first-hand his positive impact on people wherever we traveled. He could speak with equal ease and respect to Prime Ministers and farmers alike.”

Dr. Singh‘s legacy extends far beyond his professional achievements; he will be remembered for his warmth, mentorship, and unwavering commitment to the betterment of agriculture and the lives it sustains. 

Dr. Uma Shankar Singh leaves behind his wife, two daughters and a son.


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