Ravi P. Singh was born on June 24, 1957, in Varanasi, India. He graduated from Banaras Hindu University in 1977 with distinction and then in 1979 completed his M.S. degree. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Sydney in 1984. His professional carrier initiated in 1983 as a post-doctoral fellow at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico where he became Distinguished Scientist in 2005. Currently, he is head of bread wheat improvement for intensive agroecosystems. He is fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (India) and recipient of the prestigious Outstanding CGIAR Scientist Award.
Singh is known worldwide for his contributions in controlling wheat rust diseases through the use of durable genetic resistance. His research has highlighted that globally effective, durable resistance to leaf (brown) and yellow (stripe) rusts in wheat involves interactions of slow rusting genes that have small to intermediate but additive effects and the accumulation of four or five such genes results in a level of resistance comparable to immunity. His group has identified 10 diverse slow rusting genes through traditional genetics and molecular mapping and discovered that some slow rusting genes confer partial resistance to multiple diseases such as genes Lr34-Yr18 and Lr46-Yr29 for leaf rust and yellow rust, respectively. He also reported linkage/pleiotropism of Lr34-Yr18 with the Barley yellow dwarf virus tolerance gene Bdv1 and leaf tip necrosis (a morphological marker). Recent work with coworkers has further indicated that gene Lr34 also confers partial resistance to spot blotch and powdery mildew diseases. Together with co-workers, their research has led to the identification and designation of 12 genes in wheat: Sr8b for stem rust resistance; Lr31 and Lr46 for leaf rust resistance; Yr18, Yr27, Yr28, Yr29, Yr30, and Yr31 for yellow rust resistance; Bdv1 for Barley yellow dwarf virus tolerance; SuLr23 for suppression of leaf rust resistance; and Ltn for leaf tip necrosis. More recently, they have identified five currently effective genes in durum wheat that confer resistance to leaf rust and durum germ plasm with slow rusting resistance.
Singh not only elucidated the genetic basis of durable rust resistance but also simultaneously developed some of the highest yielding CIMMYT spring wheat germ plasm that contains high levels of durable, adult plant resistance to both leaf and yellow rusts. Such germ plasm has clearly shown that slow rusting genes and high yield potential can be selected simultaneously; and hence, presence of such genes does not have significant cost to plant. These lines with near-immune levels of resistance to both leaf and stripe rusts are at different stages of testing for candidates for release in various developing countries of Asia, Africa, and America and are also being used by several breeding programs including those in the United States and Australia. Previously, he contributed to the development of wheat cultivars that had two to three slow rusting minor genes for leaf rust resistance. Economic impact analysis has shown that such cultivars currently occupy more than 26 million hectare in various developing countries and have contributed over 5 billion US$ through yield savings in epidemic years.
Singh also has contributed significantly in enhancing the knowledge of diversity in wheat rusts and evolution/selection of new races significant to wheat production in developing countries. He established and coordinated Global Rust Monitoring Network that involved various developing countries’ programs, Cereal Rust (now Disease) Laboratory in the United States and IPO in the Netherlands. Rust samples, collected in various developing countries between 1886 to 1995, were characterized in either the United States (leaf and stem rust) or IPO (stripe rust) and then stored for future use. This network added very significant information on the understanding of the population diversity in different developing country regions and also demonstrated the migration path of Puccinia striiformis from Eastern African highlands to South Asia. To understand the variability in the yellow rust pathogen, P. striiformis, and to promote the use of a uniform set of differential lines worldwide, through a collaborative project with Sydney University, they developed and distributed near-isogenic lines in Avocet background for 19 yellow rust resistance genes and continue to do so for most of the remaining known resistance genes. Singh continues to coordinate the global rust-monitoring network, though in a different form, where empowered and welltrained national program scientists coordinate it regionally.
Singh currently leads an ambitious wheat-improvement project at CIMMYT that aims at replacing by 2010 over 60% of the rustprone developing countries spring wheat area with high-yielding, durable rust-resistant cultivars, which currently occupy about 25% of the area. He has been actively engaged for the last 22 years in educating and training over 400 young scientists from several developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America who obtained their diploma in wheat improvement at CIMMYT. He taught courses over a wide array of disciplines, such as host–pathogen interaction, resistance genetics, breeding for disease resistance, and management of rust diseases of wheat. These courses, which combine theoretical and practical aspects, have led to the better use of disease management strategies by a number of scientists in their respective countries. He also directed the training of 15 senior scientists from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Argentina, Mexico, Ethiopia, and Uganda who are currently leading researchers. He has directed graduate research programs for four M.S. and six Ph.D. students and currently serves on the advisory committees of four Ph.D. students in the United States, Sweden, and China. He served as an associate editor of Phytopathology from 1992 to 1994 and as a member of the Host Resistance Committee from 1996 to 1999.