Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Dr M S  Swaminathan: Father of India’s Green Revolution

GS1/GS3 Paper 

 Syllabus: Post-Independent India, Agriculture


Source: IE, TH, DTE

 Context: Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan (MS Swaminathan) (1925 to 2023) who passed away recently, played a crucial role in heralding the Green Revolution that helped India combat food insecurity


Timeline of Dr M S  Swaminathan’s life:

1925Born in Kumbakonam, Madras Presidency
1940sPursued higher education in zoology and agriculture
1947-1949Joined Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI)
1954Collaborated with Dr Norman Borlaug on wheat
1979-1982Appointed director-general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
1982Became Director General of the International Rice Research Institute
1987Awarded the first World Food Prize
1988Established M S Swaminathan Research Foundation
2002Elected President of Pugwash Conferences
2004Chair of the National Commission on Farmers
2007-2013Served in Rajya Sabha, introduced Women Farmers’ Bill


Key contributions of M S Swaminathan:

Led India out of ‘Hunger Trap’Played a major role in introducing the Green Revolution in India, significantly increasing food production and ensuring food security.
Research on CropsEnhanced crop productivity: Conducted research on transferring genes for fertilizer response from Japonica varieties to Indica varieties, enhancing crop productivity.
Dwarf variety of Wheat: Collaborated with Norman Borlaug to develop high-yielding dwarf wheat varieties suitable for Indian conditions.
Developing high-yielding Basmati rice varieties, innovative use of mutation technology for various crops
Raised awareness about the importance of sustainable agriculture, genetics, and breeding in improving crop varieties.
Launched programs like “lab to land”
Fair Minimum Support for FarmersServed as the head of the National Commission on Farmers and recommended fair minimum support prices for farmers’ crops.
Focus on nutrition, biofortification, funding for agriculture, precision farming, and promoting women in agriculture
LeadershipHis leadership at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) led to advancements in rice cultivation, including C4 carbon fixation capabilities and high-yielding Basmati rice
Swaminathan is hailed as a true visionary and pioneer in agriculture and sustainable development


Contributions to Kuttanad and Kerala’s biodiversity:

  • Kuttanad Package: The over ₹1,800-crore Kuttanad Package, recommended by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), recommended declaring the wetland system a ‘Special Agricultural Zone,‘ protecting water spread areas, modernizing infrastructure, and encouraging short-duration paddy varieties.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: The MSSRF’s 2008 report on the Idukki District (the Idukki Package) and the establishment of the ‘Community Agrobiodiversity Centre’ in Wayanad reflected his commitment to biodiversity conservation.
  • He advocated public awareness, community participation, and economic incentives for in situ and on-farm conservation traditions.


Key scientific terms associated with Dr M S Swaminathan’s research and the Green Revolution

Green RevolutionA period of rapid, scientific agricultural advancement in the mid-1960s that involved growing high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties of crops, primarily in Punjab, India. Dr. Swaminathan played a key role in this movement.
High-Yielding Varieties of Crops (HYVs)These crops produce a higher yield per hectare compared to traditional variants. They are often disease-resistant and have increased tolerance to conditions like drought. Examples include IR8 rice and Kalyan Sona wheat.
Yield GapThe difference between the potential maximum yield of a crop and the actual realized yield for a given area. Addressing this gap was a focus of the Green Revolution to increase productivity.
CytogeneticsThe study of chromosomes and their relation to hereditary characteristics and traits, including identifying traits like disease resistance and drought tolerance in crops.
Hexaploid WheatScientifically known as Triticum aestivum, it contains six sets of chromosomes and is widely cultivated. Dr. Swaminathan conducted research on the cytogenetics of hexaploid wheat.
Carbon FixationThe process by which crops capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into organic compounds through photosynthesis. It’s important for plant growth and productivity.
C3 and C4 Photosynthetic PathwaysTwo different pathways for carbon fixation. C3 (Calvin cycle) is slower and occurs when leaf pores are open. C4 is more efficient and occurs in both mesophyll and bundle sheath cells. Research on C4 rice was conducted during Dr Swaminathan’s tenure.



His passing marks the end of an era of disruptive innovation in agricultural research, education, and extension, and he is regarded as a figure worthy of admiration and respect by all citizens, particularly those who benefit from his contributions to food security and agriculture.


Insta Links:

Delhi To Introduce MSP based on Swaminathan Commission Report


Mains Links:

How has India benefited from the contributions of Sir M Visvesvaraya and Dr M S Swaminathan in the fields of water engineering and agricultural science respectively? (UPSC 2019)