Rajat De educated in Uttar Pradesh obtaining his PhD degree in Crop Physiology from the Banaras Hindu University in 1952 working on N-Nutrition of Sugarcane. He entered service in 1953 at the Sugarcane Research Station, Jallandhar (Punjab) where he demonstrated the necessity of micronutrient Fe. From 1957 he was at the Central Potato Research Institute, Shimla and contributed to the understanding of differential K response in potato germplasms. Since 1962, till his retirement in 1984, he was at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi as an Agronomist, Professor and Head of Agronomy and finally Joint Director (Research) of the Institute.
Academic and Research Achievements: At the IARI, De focussed his attention on rainfed agronomy especially in-situ soil moisture conservation by the use of soil mulches and foliar application of transpiration suppressants. Use of these materials, which acted, as heat reflectant or stomata regulator, reduced moisture loss, thereby increasing water use efficiency as well as biological yield of several dryland crops. Contribution of grain legumes when grown in sequence with non-legumes or concurrent transfer of N to the associate component in an intercrop combination was intensively researched using N15 technique. Also ecological parameters, specialy diurnal temperature variations were investigated to determine the optimum time of planting of mustard and wheat for maximizing their reproductive yields. Taking advantage of some short season crop varieties, he introduced the concept of growing 4 food crops in a year resorting to relay cropping on the same piece of land. He mentored 30 MSc and PhD students and published about 100 scientific papers in national and international journals, besides contributing chapters in three books. FAO bulletin on Fertilizer Use in Dryland Conditions was authored by him.
Other Contributions: De was on the Visiting faculty of the University of California, Berkeley and the Michigan State University, East Lansing. USA. As a Visiting Professor (1978-79) at the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University, Hyderabad, he helped the University operatioalizing its post-graduate department. As a Dryland Agronomy Consultant with the Winrock International and the Canadian International Development Agency, he was with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council between 1985 and 1987 to assist their rainfed agronomy research. De was with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the Asian Development Bank, Manila and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Rome, in various capacities for the development of rainfed agriculture in the South-East Asian countries and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Awards and Honours: Professor De was awarded the Gold Medalist of the Indian Society of Agronomy. He was a recipient of CIMMYT (International Centre for Wheat and Maize Research, Mexico) Award for his contribution to wheat research. He was the Fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi.