Dilbagh Singh Athwal Indian geneticist.
Dilbagh Singh Athwal

TOMS RIVER, NEW JERSEY, U.S. — Dilbagh Singh Athwal, an Indian geneticist, plant breeder and agriculturist who played a key role in pioneering research in plant breeding, died May 14. He was 88 years old.

Born in Lyallpur, India, in 1928, Athwal moved to Punjab, India, in 1947. A year later he graduated from Punjab University with a bachelor’s of science degree in agricultural sciences. He received an international fellowship to study at the University of Sydney in Australia, where he received his doctorate degree in genetics and plant breeding in 1954.

After returning to India in 1955, Athwal began a career as a plant breeder, becoming the first head of the department of plant breeding at Punjab Agricultural University. He collaborated with Dr. Norman Borlaug to produce the wheat variety “Kalyan.” The research of Athwal and Borlaug was instrumental in bringing about the Green Revolution in Punjab.

Athwal joined The Ohio State University in 1967 as a visiting professor, and later accepted a position as the assistant director of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. In 1975 the government of India awarded him the third highest civilian honor of the Padma Bhushan for his contributions to biological science.

In 1977, he joined the Rockefeller Foundation as a program officer for Asia in International Agriculture Development Services. During his time with the Foundation he traveled extensively in Asia, where he helped design and implement programs to increase food production.

Survivors include his wife, Gurdev; two sons, Barinder (wife Susan) and Harjit (wife Amardeep); and five grandchildren.