Daljit Singh Virk received BSc (Agriculture) (1964) from Punjab University, Chandigarh and MSc (Plant Breeding) (1966) from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. He earned his PhD (Genetics) (1976) under the supervision of Professor JL Jinks from the University of Birmingham as a Commonwealth Scholar. He was awarded DSc (Genetics and Plant Breeding) (1991) by the University of Birmingham, UK. Following his PhD, he worked as a Research Fellow in Genetics (1976-78) at the University of Birmingham, on the modeling of induced quantitative variation, on the 1851 Exhibition Fellowship Programme of the Royal Commission. He worked as Professor in Plant Breeding in Punjab Agricultural University (1973 to 2000). He worked in Bangor University, UK from 1995 to 2009 as senior researcher and international coordinator of DFID Plant Sciences projects in South Asia.
Academic and Research Achievements: Virk's work on participatory varietal selection (PVS) and client-oriented breeding (COB), varietal regulatory frameworks and use of marker-assisted selection for drought tolerance in upland rice, and biometrical genetics is internationally recognized. His two COB (Ashoka 200F and Ashoka 228) varieties of rice, released in Jharkhand, Rajasthan, MP and Gurjarat, are the first ever with high yield, high grain quality and drought tolerance in the rainfed direct seeded uplands. They are grown by thousands of tribal farmers in India which has increased their food security and livelihoods. The impact assessment surveys by the Department for International Development (DFID) UK have revealed their huge benefits to farmers. His first ever drought tolerant upland rice variety, Birsa Vikas Dhan 111, bred by using marker-assisted selection for root QTL is highly preferred by farmers as are his other COB bred rice varieties for the transplanted conditions (Birsa Vikas Sugandha-1, Birsa Vikas Dhan 203). His other notable contributions in biometrical genetics and plant breeding are: extension of theory of triple test crosses and diallels; new tests for epistasis and inter-genotypic competition; new models for analysis of induced genetic variation; new analyses for adaptation including weighted regression analysis and new tests for cross-over genotype x environment interactions. His pioneering work on gene transfer and matromorphy generated a worldwide interest. He proposed new analyses for cytolasmic differentiation using iso-cytoplasmic lines in pearl millet. He has published more than 350 papers and also released six varieties and 15 male sterile lines of pearl millet. He has published teaching aid bulletins and books on plant breeding.
Other Contributions: Dr Virk led/collaborated about half dozen international projects funded by DFID UK, Rockefeller Foundation, Irish Aid and European Union. He has contributed in academic capacity building in many countries in Asia and Africa. He served as Editor and Member, Editorial Board, Crop Improvement (1987-93); and as Editorial Board Member of the Journal of Crop Improvement (2004- )
Awards and Honours: Dr Virk received Professor MJ Narasimahan Academic Merit Award of the Indian Phytopathological Society (1982) and Best Paper Award of the Crop Improvement Society of India (1993). He was honoured by the Vice-Chancellor, PAU Ludhiana (1991, 92, 93), International Punjabi Cultural Society (1992), Rotary Club, Amritsar (1992), and Alumni Association and Plant Breeding Association (1983, 1991, 1993). He was elected Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad (1995), National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi (1993), Crop Improvement Society of India (1993), Royal Society of Biology, London (and Chartered Biologist) (1990), and Indian Society of Genetics and Plant Breeding (1986). He is adjunct Professor at Eternal University, Baru Sahib, HP (2013). His research on upland rice was recognised in Bangor University's Impact and Innovation Award of 2015.