Post-Doctoral Research Assistant

Surrounded by fields of wheat and rice in his hometown of Punjab, India, Avjinder (Avi) Singh Kaler’s passion for plant science and his desire to learn more about ag was cultivated. After high school, Avi attended Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) where approximately 60 years before, an American agronomist, Dr. Norman Borlaug spearheaded the Green Revolution, an agricultural revolution to end hunger. Growing up experiencing the aftereffects of the Green Revolution motivated Avi to increase his understanding of current ag practices and work to predict how they will impact agriculture’s future.

After earning a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from PAU, Kaler headed to the University of Florida where he earned his Master of Science in Agronomy. Interested in learning more about the soybean industry, Kaler spoke with Dr. Larry Purcell . Dr. Purcell, crop physiologist in the University of Arkansas’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science, invited Avi to join him in Arkansas and Kaler headed West once more, this time for Arkansas.

While earning his doctorate, Kaler conducted research on soybean drought. Kaler graduated with his doctorate in 2016 and in September of 2017, was appointed as alternate liaison and liaison for the National Soybean Variety Review Board because of his commitment to the Crop Science Society. The following November, he was awarded the 2017 Association of Agricultural Scientist of Indian Origin Outstanding Graduate Student Award.

As a post-doctoral research assistant, Kaler makes predictions on the drought tolerance of soybean varieties. He then works to see if the drought tolerant gene of one variety can be applied to a high-yielding variety to create a variety that is not only high yielding but also drought tolerant.

Kaler said the population in India depends mostly on row crops, which motivated him to want to learn more about advancing the science of agriculture

 

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In India, we grow wheat and rice. We depend solely on row crops mostly. It motivated me to want to learn more in advancing this science. But I want to learn what people are actually doing in the present time; what is going to be in the future 10 years? That’s what I want to learn.

I’m from India, Punjab, and 60 percent–to–70 percent [of the] population in my state depend on agriculture. …Born and raised around the agriculture, all the fields, that’s why I love plant science.

After my high school, I went to the Punjab Agriculture University, and that university is famous for the Green Revolution. If you know Dr. Norman Borlaug, he’s [known as] the father of the Green Revolution. He did research [at PAU] and prevented hunger in the world. He’s the only man to save more lives in history than any other person, so that inspired me, I want to become like him.

I came to the United States to the University of Florida [for my masters]. After my masters, I wanted to do something in soybean, so then I talked to Dr. Larry Purcell and he asked me if I want to work on this project. It was a really good project, so I said “Yeah, I can do that.”

So … I moved from India to Arkansas.

Based on my research, we identify the marker and then calculate the breeding value for all 19,000 [genetic] lines. Then we identify the extreme lines. Like, some are extremely drought tolerant and some are extremely non-drought tolerant. So we want to see if what we predicted [was right]; these lines [that] are drought tolerant are actually drought tolerant or not. My idea is, if we use the genetic information from big germplasm, then we can identify some lines that have high drought tolerance. Then we can take that gene and insert the gene into a high-yielding variety. Then we can create high-yield varieties with drought tolerance.

 

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