Born and raised in India, where he also had his early education. Obtained his MS and Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin, USA. Worked for over 30 years in international agricultural research and development, serving as a scientist, Regional Representative for South America, Director of Maize Program, and Director of African Livelihoods Program at International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico and in its outreach programs. In 2005, joined Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as Director of Agricultural Support Systems Division (AGS). In 2006, was appointed Director of Plant Production and Protection Division (AGP) at FAO, to lead work on increasing production and quality of all food and non-food crops to enhance food security and livelihoods especially of rural as well as urban poor. The work of the Division involves conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources, seed production, development and deployment of improved cultivars, use of appropriate agronomic practices, cropping systems, conservation agriculture, organic farming, and integrated pest management among others. International Treaties and Commissions such as ITPGRFA (International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture), GPA (Global Plan of Action), IPPC (International Plant Protection Commission), International Code of Conduct on Pesticides, and Rotterdam Convention also form parts of the Division's work. Chairs the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Biotechnology at FAO which integrates research, development, and policy work on biotechnology of the Organization for agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. Among honors and awards include D. Sc. from the Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology (India), Fellowship to the American Society of Agronomy, Fellowship to the Crop Science Society of America, and special recognitions from the governments of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Vietnam. Has authored or co-authored over 150 publications.
Viruses, Insects and Hunger
Plant diseases cause annual losses of about US$ 60 billion, by lowering both quantity and quality of agricultural production. With over 800 recognized plant viruses, they are a major contributor to these losses, especially exacerbating food insecurity of the poorest of the poor. Approximately, 75% of the world’s one billion hungry and poor livein rural areas, deriving their livelihoods from agriculture. Viral diseases cause serious losses in cassava, banana, rice, potato andother staple crops, affecting livelihoods of millions of poor inrural communities. Unfortunately, plant viruses in agriculture go beyond just lowering quantity and quality of production; they also hamper international trade through quarantine restrictions.
Plant viruses cause diseases with a range of symptoms. They are transmitted mainly through vector organisms such as insects and mites. The virus-vector relationship is specific for different diseases and is critical for disease management strategies. Some plant viruses are transmitted through seeds and through vegetatively propagated plant parts. Disease diagnosis and virus identification are essential to exploit appropriate disease management strategies based on pathogen epidemiology and transmission mechanisms. Such strategies include use of virus-free planting material, appropriate cultural practices, integrated vector management and host plant resistance.
Resistance breeding is effective against plant-to-plant transmission (seed and vector transmission), intracellular virus multiplication, and virus translocation and colonization of the plant. The increase in emerging infectious plant diseases globally has been expressed in the form of 1) an increase in incidence, geographical or host range, or 2) changes in pathogenesis, or 3) newly evolving, or 4) newly discovered or identified plant diseases. Most emerging infectious plant diseases are caused by viruses.
The range of mechanisms involved in this process ofevolution and emergence of infectious viruses includes recombination and synergism between virus species, new vector biotypes, genome integration, host adaptation and long distance dispersal. These processes are consistently linked to major human-induced changes in the agricultural production system including crop introductions, crop intensification, germplasm movement, and introduction of new genotypes.
The risks associated with emerging viral diseases are higher in developing countries due to increased agricultural intensification within systems that have low capacities to design and implement appropriate control measures. Limitationsare particularly prevalent in disease diagnosis and pathogen identification, surveillance and implementation of phytosanitary measures including plant quarantine (especially in conflict areas), production and utilization of virus-free material, application of appropriate cultural practices and vector control. FAO supports its member countries in development of appropriate policy, technological, regulatory, socio-economic, and political environment for improved disease management.