Dr. Bir Bahadur Singh (BB) was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) and presented with a Certifcate and a Rossette Pin during its Annual Meeting at Boston MA on Feb.18, 2016. This Award was in recognition of his research work on breeding short duration varieties of pigeon pea, soybean and cowpea which fit as niche crops in the cereal-based cropping systems and enhance the system’s sustainability, ensure efficient use of farmers’ land, water and labor resources and contribute to balanced food nutrition.
Dr. B.B. Singh obtained his B.Sc. (Hon) Ag.&A.H. degree in 1963 from G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, the first agricultural university established in India on the Land Grant Pattern of the US Universities through assistance of the USAID and the University of Illinois in 1960. Being one of the top students in the graduating class of 1963, he was offered a special scholarship to pursue his graduate studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where he worked on soybean breeding and completed his M.S. degree in 1965 and Ph.D. degree in 1967. After one year of Post Doctoral research at Cornell University, he returned back to G.B. Pant University in 1968 as grain legume and soybean breeder. He developed the first short duration pigeon pea variety (UPAS-120) that matured in 120 days compared to 180 to 250 days of the existing varieties. This variety was released in several states in India and has been used in breeding programs world over. He also established the first soybean breeding program in India and developed several improved soybean varieties with good adaptation to tropical conditions. He also played a catalytic and successful role in persuading the existing vegetable oil and food industries to process soybean to expand soybean cultivation in India. The pigeon pea production in India has increased from 1.7 million tons in 1968 to 3.3 million tons in 2014 and the soybean production has increased from a mere 12,000 tons in 1968 to about 11 million tons in 2014 making India the 5th largest soybean producing country in the world.
In view of his achievements in India, Dr. Singh was invited by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to join as a Grain legume Breeder in 1979 where he primarily worked on cowpea breeding – a crop of major importance in Africa. However, the traditional varieties had spreading growth habit with long maturity period and susceptible to many pests with low yield potential. Working with a team of scientists from 1979 until his retirement in 2006, Dr. Singh developed over 40 semi-erect and erect type cowpea high yielding varieties with 60-70 day maturity combined with resistance to major diseases, parasitic weeds and insect pests that have been released in over 45 countries and contributed to the global increase in cowpea production from about 1 million tons in 1980 to over 7 million tons in 2014.
After his retirement from IITA, Dr. Singh has been working as a Visiting Professor at G.B. Pant University as well as at Texas A&M University and continuing his work on cowpea improvement for drought, heat and low-P tolerance and for ‘wheat-cowpea-rice’ and ‘rice-cowpea-rice’ intensive cropping systems in India and ‘wheat-cowpea’ double cropping in Texas.
Dr. Singh is a member of many professional societies and he has been earlier honored with many awards including Fellow of the Indian Society of Genetics and Plant Breeding, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Outstanding Senior Scientist Award by the CGIAR and the Silicon Valley Tech Museum award.