Dr. Y.L. Nene (Yeshwant Laxman Nene) was born in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh in 1936. He received his primary and secondary education in the same city. He did his undergraduate education in agriculture at Gwalior and post-graduate education in plant pathology at the Agricultural College, Kanpur. He received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in 1955 and 1957 from Agra University (Uttar Pradesh, India) to which the colleges at Gwalior and Kanpur were affiliated. He pursued his advanced education in plant pathology at the University of Illinois and was awarded the PhD degree by the University of Illinois, USA in 1960 for his work on plant viruses.
He started his professional career in 1960 as Assistant Professor and the founder of the Department of Plant Pathology, UP Agricultural University [now GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology (GBPUA&T)], Pantnagar, Uttar Pradesh, India. He served as the first Professor and Head of the same Department from 1969 to 1974. In 1974, he was invited to join International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India as Principal Plant Pathologist. Later in 1980, he became Leader, Pulses Research and in 1986, the Program Director, Legumes. In 1989, he was appointed the Deputy Director General of ICRISAT, a position that he held till he voluntarily opted to prematurely retire in 1996 to devote full time to the Asian Agri-History Foundation.
Dr. Nene, while working at GBPUA&T, solved the mystery of khaira disease of rice and established that it was caused by zinc deficiency, and also pioneered systemic research on viral diseases of pulses. At ICRISAT, he solved the mystery of “wilt complex” of chickpea (gram) and developed multiple-disease resistance-screening techniques and disease-resistant varieties of pulses. He supervised the research of 26 M.Sc. and Ph.D. students. He has to his credit more than 500 scientific publications, including research and scientific articles, books “Fungicides in Plant Disease Control” and “The Pigeonpea”, and an excellent pictorial bulletin “Tomato Disorders: Identification Handbook”.
Dr. Nene received several awards/honours, notably being the International Rice Research Prize by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 1967; Shri Om Prakash Bhasin Award in Science and Technology in 1992; the Indian Society of Pulses Research and Development (ISPRD) Award in 1994; ISPRD Gold Medal in 2001; Honorary Doctor of Science degree by GBPUA&T, Pantnagar in 1991; and a few others. He is a Fellow of many professional societies including the American Phytopathological Society. He delivered the prestigious Glen Anderson Lecture in the Plenary Session of the International Congress of Plant Pathology in Montreal, Canada.
Dr. Nene developed an interest in the history of Indian agriculture. It was on 30 December 1994 that he established the AAHF and a Trust, the Asian Agri-History Foundation Trust (AAHFT) with one staff member to manage its activities. He was whole-heartedly and unanimously elected as the first Chairman of the AAHFT. He was Chairman as well as the Managing Editor of the Journal, Asian Agri-History. Considering his unparallel contribution in the field of Plant Pathology, Prof. Y.L. Nene has been honoured with Prof. A.P. Misra Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award by Indian Phytopathological Society for the year 2008-09.