Paraguay’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Julio César Arriola, recently bestowed on Man Mohan Kohli, retired wheat geneticist of CIMMYT the “Comendador” award of the country’s National Order of Merit, highlighting the scientist’s “…exceptional contribution to Paraguayan agriculture and economy.”
A native of India, where he completed schooling including a Ph.D. in wheat genetics, Kohli worked at CIMMYT during 1971-2004 on topics including spring x winter wheat crosses, resistance in wheat to the rust and other diseases, and the improvement and promotion of triticale, a wheat x rye hybrid.
In 1978 he was assigned to a CIMMYT regional program involving wheat breeding, development and training in collaboration with countries of the Southern Cone of South America, which included facilitating the regional testing and exchange of wheat breeding lines and selection data.
As of 2004, Kohli has been an active part-time consultant with Paraguay’s national wheat program and the Bioceres Group in Argentina.
“Funding ended for CIMMYT wheat research in Paraguay in 1993,” Kohli said. “In 2003 we started direct cooperation again through a joint venture including the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the Paraguayan Chamber of Cereals and Oilseeds Exporters, and CIMMYT.”
“Back in 2003, Paraguay was producing about 320,000 tons of wheat each year and importing over 200,000 tons. Now, yearly output is around 1 million tons and the country exports almost a third of that.”
Kohli said the joint initiative had promoted higher-yielding wheat varieties and farming methods, lowered the costs of agrochemicals, and helped form associations involving farmers and millers—the complete cycle from sowing to marketing for wheat.
Paraguayans eat an average of over 85 kilograms of wheat each year as pasta, bread and other bakery products.
Kohli’s career has led him to work with science luminaries such as M.S. Swaminathan, Glenn Anderson, Joe Rupert, Cal Qualset, Warren Kronstad, Frank Zillinsky, and Sanjaya Rajaram, among others.
“I met CIMMYT scientist and eventual Nobel Peace laureate, Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, in 1967,” Kohli said. “We continued to meet every year on his visits to India and, when I was about to finish my Ph.D. in 1970, he invited me to join the team at CIMMYT.”
“It has been a privilege and honor to have worked alongside many dedicated colleagues at CIMMYT and national programs who have contributed significantly to building research capacities and global food security over the last 50 years. This award is dedicated to all of them and the farmers who have been the primary source of inspiration for our work”.
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