Agricultural research leader joins Murdoch University’s Food Futures Institute

Murdoch University has announced the appointment of Professor Rajeev K Varshney, an agricultural scientist, specialising in genomics, genetics, molecular breeding and capacity building in developing countries, to its acclaimed Food Futures Institute.Professor Varshney will take on the roles of Director, WA State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre, and Director, Centre for Crop and Food Innovation with Food Futures Institute. He will also take on the position of International Chair in Agriculture & Food Security for connecting the Murdoch University with international agricultural research systems.Announcing the appointment, Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation Professor Peter Davies said Murdoch University was privileged to have someone of the calibre of Professor Varshney joining the institution.Professor Varshney is eminently qualified in the area of food security, which is so important when you consider that 70 per cent more food will be needed to feed the world’s 9.5 billion people by 2050,” Professor Davies said.

“Professor Varshney is a prolific author and has been a highly cited researcher for eight consecutive years with a h-index of 108 and over 46,000 citations. He has written 16 books and more than 450 research papers, including 19 papers in Nature journals. He holds Adjunct, Honorary and Visiting Professor positions at 10 academic institutions in Australia, China, Ghana, Hong Kong and India.

“He has made significant contributions to improving food security in Asia and Africa by creating genomic resources of major ‘orphan’ tropical crops, and has developed and deployed DNA marker technologies for the identification of useful genetic variation in tropical crops and breeding superior crop varieties in developing countries.”

Professor Varshney said he was looking forward to contributing to the work of the Food Futures Institute at Murdoch University for benefiting Australian and international agriculture.

“I have a strong focus in discovering, developing and delivering innovative R&D solutions to tackle wicked problems facing global agriculture,” Professor Varshney said.

“I bring to Murdoch a strong background in genomics, genetics, molecular breeding and capacity building in developing countries, international partnership and a huge research network which aligns very closely with the work of the University and its academics in the Food Futures Institute.

“Through my work, I am pleased to have been able to initiate and lead major international programs that are creating and delivering superior crop varieties to some of the world’s poorest farmers.

“I am honoured to be joining Murdoch University, which has the technology, infrastructure and people that will allow me to continue to pursue these solutions to this significant world problem, particularly at a time where climate change and water security is significantly impacting food production and quality of production.

Professor Varshney is currently the Research Program Director – Accelerated Crop Improvement; and Director, Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a global agricultural research institute. Before joining ICRISAT in 2005, Professor Varshney served Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, a leading plant genomics institute in Germany, for five years as a Research Scientist.

Professor Varshney most recently led a world-first study sequencing more than 3,000 chickpea genomes and mapping their variations.  The research, published in Nature on 10 November 2021, involved a group of 57 researchers from 41 organisations and 10 countries and provides crucial science for the breeding of drought-tolerant, highly productive chickpea varieties.

This article first appeared on the Murdoch University news site in November 2021. It has been republished here courtesy of Murdoch University media. View the original story

Lead image: Professor Rajeev K Varshney in the ICRISAT CEGSB lab. Image courtesy of Murdoch University Media.