Dr. Mahendra Persaud is an agriculture researcher whose development of high-yield, flood-tolerant and disease-resistant rice varieties has increased rice production in Guyana. He is Guyana’s leading plant breeder, credited with transforming the fortunes of his nation’s rice farmers and ensuring the country a place in the competitive international rice market.
Dr. Mahendra Persaud
The 49-year-old is Chief Scientist at the Guyana Rice Development Board’s Rice Research Station at Burma, where he oversees a team of research scientists, technicians and labourers. He and his team have developed 13 varieties of rice. Under his leadership, national average rice yields have increased by 50%. It is estimated that 85% of Guyana’s rice cultivation is planted with his team’s rice varieties.
Breeding rice by conventional methods of hybridisation rather than genetic manipulation, it often takes 5 to 10 years of painstaking work to develop a new variety. One of Dr. Persaud’s major achievements has been development of a variety that is resistant to the blast fungus, responsible for devastating rice crop losses worldwide.
Beyond research, he has produced field manuals to help farmers with production. He regularly attends international conferences and has co-authored 12 publications in peer-reviewed journals.
Dr. Persaud has been awarded Guyana’s Golden Arrow of Achievement for “outstanding research.” Cognizant of the effects of climate change, he is currently working on plans to develop drought-resistant and salt-tolerant rice varieties.