Vignesh Muthusamy of India, and Dinesh Panday, a Nepal native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln agronomy graduate student working and studying at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center, were named among the winners of the 2018 Maize-Asia Youth Innovators Awards.

They were presented with the award at the 13th Asian Maize Conference in early October in Ludhiana, India.

Muthusamy has a focus on “Development of biofortified provitamin-A rich QPM maize hybrids,” the organization said.

He is from a farming community in the Namakkal district in Tamil Nadu. A senior scientist at the Division of Genetics, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, he specializes in maize genetics and breeding.

His research demonstrates the use of modern biotechnological tools in crop improvement. He was associated with the development of India’s first provitamin A enriched maize hybrid ‘Pusa Vivek QPM 9 Improved’ and with the development of three quality protein maize hybrids that possess high lysine and tryptophan in protein, it said.

These biofortified maize hybrids offer tremendous scope to address widespread human malnutrition. Further research work includes the development of a high-yielding sweet corn hybrid and several novel maize genetic resources for nutritional quality traits.

Muthusamy has received many prestigious awards from different societies and scientific organizations, including the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Research in Agricultural and Allied Sciences from Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

As principal investigator, he is handling projects funded by Department of Biotechnology and Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, for development of nutritionally rich maize and specialty corn genotypes. Besides research, he is also actively involved in teaching and guidance of post graduate students of the institute, it added.

Panday is a doctorate graduate research assistant in soil fertility and nutrient management and has been conducting research in the Scottsbluff area, while based at the Panhandle Center.

His advisers are Bijesh Maharjan, assistant professor of agronomy and horticulture and soils and nutrient management specialist at the Center, and Richard Ferguson, professor and interim head of the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, the release said.

Panday's research aims to determine the effectiveness of high-carbon char in reducing environmental nitrogen loss and improving nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency in fertilized soils in semi-arid regions, it said.

The project uses sensors to detect maize nitrogen stress, predict grain yield and determine in-season and additional side-dress applications of nitrogen fertilizer, to reduce environmental impacts, the university noted.

The 2018 Maize-Asia Youth Innovators Awards recognize the contributions of innovative young women and men who can inspire fellow young people to get involved with maize-based research, change agency and farming.

The awards aim to celebrate youth participation in maize-based agri-food systems and are sponsored by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Program on Maize in collaboration with Young Professionals for Agricultural Development.

"It was my honor to represent the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as well as my home country, Nepal, in such a glorious event," Panday said. "I feel privileged to receive this award and it has encouraged me to work more on maize-based agri-food system. I am very thankful to my adviser, Dr. Maharjan, for providing me continuous support and encouragement to grow professionally."

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