The society grants this honor to a current APS member in recognition of distinguished contributions to plant pathology or to The American Phytopathological Society. Fellow recognition is based on significant contributions in one or more of the following areas: original research, teaching, administration, professional and public service, and/or extension and outreach.
Ranajit Bandyopadhyay was born in Jamshedpur, India, received a B.S. degree (honors) in agriculture and animal husbandry in 1974; an M.S. degree in plant pathology in 1976 from G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology; and a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology in 1980 from Haryana Agricultural University. He joined the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in 1980 in India and spent sabbatical years at Cornell University and Texas A&M University. In 2002, he joined the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, where he is the principal plant pathologist. Bandyopadhyay is a distinguished researcher with prominent leadership roles in administration and implementing impact-driven scientific research in real-world settings.
During the past 40 years, Bandyopadhyay has made several significant contributions in research, development, communication, education, and technology transfer to manage seemingly intractable disease problems in Africa, Australia, and North and South America. He has conducted work central to the control of devastating diseases of diverse crops such as sorghum, soybean, maize, banana, cowpea, cassava, and yams. His diverse and pragmatic research projects were aimed at developing disease management tools and generated innovative information on disease diagnostics, pathogen biology, genetic diversity, pathogen variation, epidemiology, disease evaluation, and host plant resistance. Prominent among these are sorghum grain mold, sorghum ergot, soybean rust, and black sigatoka on banana. His research on introduced pathogens, particularly ergot in the Americas and soybean rust in Africa, were essential to reducing the losses to these vital crops.
Despite the importance of this work, Bandyopadhyay's most important efforts have been in reducing aflatoxin contamination through biocontrol. He moved on-the-shelf concept technology into development and commercial application through multi-institutional, multinational, and multidisciplinary partnerships to address the complexities of aflatoxin contamination. In so doing, the profitability and safety of crops and the incomes of smallholder farmers and crop-associated industries in many African countries increased, and the tactics used for aflatoxin control have been inexorably changed.
Specifically, Bandyopadhyay originated and leads an Africa-wide initiative to scale-up aflatoxin biocontrol, in which native atoxigenic strains of Aspergillus flavus competitively exclude toxigenic strains and limit aflatoxin produced in crops. He and his team collected and evaluated nearly 100,000 A. flavus isolates from 20 countries to identify widely distributed and locally adapted native atoxigenic strains for country- and region-specific multistrain biopesticides generically termed “Aflasafe." At present, 14 Aflasafe products are registered for use in 10 countries, and additional products are being developed in another 10 countries.
The unique and unconventional process that Bandyopadhyay pioneered was a “pull mechanism" that incentivized adoption of aflatoxin management programs centered on biocontrol, along with innovation platforms for farmer–market linkages. Collectively, these efforts demonstrated the economic viability and public health benefits of large-scale adoption of biocontrol to lower the dietary aflatoxin burden. For over 18 years, the work of his group has been showcased in various television programs and in articles in newspaper and popular science magazines that highlight the importance of aflatoxins and the potential value of biocontrol.
Together with colleagues at USDA ARS, Bandyopadhyay designed an Aflasafe manufacturing plant, secured grants to construct it, and led a team that built a plant in Nigeria to meet the growing demand for Aflasafe products across Africa. With support from multiple donors, including USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), AGRA, USDA FAS, and the French Development Agency, the development, technology transfer, and commercialization of Aflasafe is in full progress in 20 countries. Thus far, more than 150,000 farmers have treated nearly a million acres of maize and peanut fields with Aflasafe products manufactured in plants operated by either the private sector (in Nigeria, Senegal, and Tanzania) or a national government (Kenya). Six African governments have included the technology in their National Agriculture Investment Plans. He also provides expert advice to an initiative on development of aflatoxin biocontrol technology in Pakistan.
These efforts have left a legacy of human capacity development and laboratory infrastructure for plant pathology across Africa. Bandyopadhyay has mentored over 60 scientists, postdocs, students, and technicians from 23 countries, including 19 African countries. Many of his mentees manage national or regional aflatoxin biocontrol programs in Africa, and 2 of them are among the 10 recipients of the APS William Boright Hewitt and Maybelle Ellen Ball Hewitt Award. Another mentee received the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application from the World Food Prize Foundation. He garnered funding for research and training labs and directed their construction in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sudan, and Zambia.
Private and public stakeholders have made significant investments in aflatoxin mitigation, including over $60 million for Bandyopadhyay's team biocontrol-related activities. In the United States, Europe, and Africa, he has raised the visibility of aflatoxin's impacts on humanity in the developing world, while simultaneously advocating for active aflatoxin mitigation across Sub-Saharan Africa. These educational efforts contributed to the decision by the BMGF to fund the African Union's specialized institution Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA). Bandyopadhyay has served continuously on the PACA Steering Committee and chairs its technical sub-committee on implementation of available technologies. He has served on several committees and task forces for numerous other organizations, including APS. Bandyopadhyay's research and extra-scientific efforts have been repeatedly recognized both within and beyond the CGIAR system. Awards he has received include the Outstanding Scientist Award from IITA and ICRISAT, the Outstanding Achievement Award from the National Grain Sorghum Producers Board of North America, the Agents of Change for Aflatoxin Mitigation Award from the African Union, and the APS International Service Award. He has published more than 145 research articles, edited several books, and helped organize multiple conferences.
Bandyopadhyay is an enthusiastic advocate for all aspects of plant pathology and has used his time and boundless energy to make integrated aflatoxin management centered on biocontrol a real path leading to improved health for millions of Africans. His scientific contributions are significant, but his real contribution is safer food for millions of consumers and higher income for tens of thousands of farmers.