Ramesh Saxena, former IRRI entomologist, passes away

 Gene Hettel   |  

Dr. Saxena conceptualized the relevance of botanical pest control for pest management in developing countries. To reduce the use of toxic chemical pesticides, he created awareness of the potential of extracts from the seeds and leaves of the neem tree in controlling insect pests and insect-transmitted viral diseases in seven countries in South and Southeast Asia.

From early in his career, Dr. Saxena was a champion of expanding the agricultural applications of the neem tree. (Photo courtesy of G. Hettel)

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Ramesh Chandra Saxena, 82, an entomologist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for 16 years, passed away in India on 14 March 2001. He had worked tirelessly around the world to help ensure a healthier planet.

During his time at IRRI (1975-91), he helped increase the understanding of insect pests and rice cultivar interactions and insect biotypes.

Dr. Saxena conceptualized the relevance of botanical pest control for pest management in developing countries. To reduce the use of toxic chemical pesticides, he created awareness of the potential of extracts from the seeds and leaves of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) in controlling insect pests and insect-transmitted viral diseases in seven countries in South and Southeast Asia.

“Ram is well recognized for his work on neem,” said his former IRRI colleague and fellow entomologist, K.L. Heong. “At IRRI, he also contributed to the breeding of insect resistance in rice. He is fondly remembered by many in national programs and the international scientific community.”

(Photo courtesy of G. Hettel)

From early in his career, he was a champion of expanding the agricultural applications of the neem tree. After IRRI, he served for 9 years (1991-2000) as a senior principal scientist at the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, Kenya.

There, he coordinated the Finland-UNEP Neem Project to create awareness of the potential of the neem tree in sustainable agriculture and mitigating poverty in 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. He had served as chair of the Neem Foundation, based in India, since 1993.

Prior to his time at IRRI, he was an assistant professor of zoology at Meerut College in India (1959-1964), on the staff of the East West Center at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu (1964-1966), and a research investigator (1966-1973) and lecturer in zoology (1973-1975) at Delhi University.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Sulakshna Saxena, in October 2020. He is survived by a son, Sankalp, and a daughter, Shafalika.

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