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avatar for Dr. Surinder Vasal

Dr. Surinder Vasal

2000 World Food Prize Laureate
2000 World Food Prize Laureate Dr. Surinder Vasal was born April 12, 1938, in Amritsar, India, where he grew up. He completed his university education at various institutions in India and earned a Ph.D. in genetics and plant breeding from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. In 1959, Dr. Vasal launched his career as a researcher for the Department of Agriculture in Himachal Pradesh and later worked as a maize breeder at Himachal Agricultural College.

In 1967, Dr. Vasal took up his first assignment outside India, working with the Rockefeller Foundation in Thailand to conduct research on maize in close collaboration with the National Corn and Sorghum Research Center of Kasetsart University. From there he moved to a position at CIMMYT in 1970, working with and later supervising the high lysine maize project. From 1985 to 1996 he was responsible for coordinating CIMMYT’s germplasm program and Lowland Tropical Maize Program to lead both population and hybrid research. Dr. Vasal and his team members introduced the first set of 58 tropical and 42 subtropical lines in 1991. In 1994, an additional 62 tropical white and yellow lines were announced. 

In 1997, Dr. Vasal took on a new role, leading CIMMYT’s Asian Regional Maize Program in Thailand. He has strengthened regional hybrid research activities and coordinates the Tropical Asian Maize Network (TAMNET). 

Dr. Vasal has been deeply involved in CIMMYT training and regional programs. In the past three decades, Dr. Vasal has trained numerous postdoctoral fellows and collaborated with visiting scientists. He has also conducted courses on hybrid maize technology and seed production, training more than 400 researchers in India, China, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Nepal. 

Dr. Vasal is a member of the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America (whose Presidential Award he won in 2000), and India’s National Academy of Sciences. He has received the 1996 International Service in Crop Science Award and the 1999 International Agronomy Award, in addition to accolades from governments of or institutions in Honduras, Peru, Panama, and India.