Professor N. Irabanta Singh: A legendary Aerobiologist of North East India

Prof BN Pande *

The writer knew Prof. N. Irabanta Singh, Former Professor of Aerobiology (HAG), Centre of Advanced Study in Life Sciences, Manipur University, Canchipur ever since he attended the first National conference on Aerobiology (1981) held at Dr. Babasaheb .Ambedkar Marathwada University, Aurangabad (M.S.),where he presented and published 2 (two) research papers, viz.,
(i) Aeropalynology of Shillong and in relation to Allergic human disease - I . Botanical Aspects (Proc. Nat. Conf. Env. Bio. 1981: pp 151-157) and
(ii) Microbiology of air inside the cinema hall (Proc. Nath. Conf. Env. Bio. 1981: pp 199-206) edited by Prof. S.T. Tilak.

He also visited Manipur University, Canchipur twice - first during 15th National conference on Aerobiology held at the Department of Life Science Manipur University (6th-8thMarch, 2009) as invited talker and the second during National Symposium on Aerobiology for Sustainable Management of Plant, Animal and Human health being held at the same institute (25th-26thMarch, 2013) as invited talker.

As the present writer knew Prof. Singh very closely, this article summaries the research activities of Prof. N.I.Singh as we respect him as a legendary aerobiologist of North East India for which the Indian Aerobiological Society honored him with "Life time achievement award" for his outstanding contributions to Indian Aerobiology in North East India during the 16th National Conference on Aerobiology (16th-21st Nov., 2010) held at Bapuji Institute of Engineering and Technology, Devangere, Karnataka

The research work in the field of aerobiology in the Indo-Myanmar hot spot region was initiated by Prof. N.I. Singh as soon as he joined the Manipur University Canchipur on 21st July, 1984 as Associate professor (Life Sciences) and in-charge Plant Pathology specialization. Prior to this he served St. Edmunds's College, Shillong (Meghalaya) (1972-1981) as Lecture in Botany and Manipur Agricultural College, Iroishemba (1981-1984) as Assistant Professor (Microbiology).

After his joining Manipur University, various constituents of the airspora had been the subject of intensive investigations. Prof.N.I.Singh summaries "Three decades of Aerobiology research in North East India" dealing with aerobiology and diseases of field crops; aerobiology and diseases of plantation crops; aerobiology and mycotic diseases of plantation crops; aerobiology and mycotic disease in cattle; aerobiology and allergic human disease; extramural aerobiology and intramural aerobiology (Irabanta Singh, International Aerobiology Newsletter, U.S.A. No. 33, 1991 pp. 13-14).

Prof. Singh and his students organized "A decade of Aerobiology research at Manipur University" with reflection on past, present and future activities against P.G. instruction program, research undertaken and publications in different aspects of aerobiological investigations ( Irabanta Singh, Frontier Botanist special volume 1994 pp 1-15).

He also reviewed "Fifty years of Aerobiological research in North East India" (Irabanta Singh, Souvenir 7th Manipur Science Congress, 1998). He reported "Aerobiologyin Indo-Myanmar Boarder State (Irabanta Singh, International Aerobiology Newsletter, USA, NO. 48, 1998). He reviewed "Aerobiology, epidemiology, and forecasting of fungal diseases found in certain crops of North-East India" (Irabanta Singh, Indian J. Aerobiol. 19(1): 12-18, 2006) and also releases a souvenir and compendium stating "Twenty five years of aerobiological and allied field research teaching extension at Manipur University (1984-2009) (Irabanta Singh, 2009).

To commemorate completion of 100 years by the India Science Congress Association, Prof.N.I.Singh, while delivering invited talk, made an attempt to draw the attention of the audience (ISCA- Manipur chapter) how Aerobiologists from North East India play their role in "Science for shaping the future of India". According to Prof. Singh, aerobiology research in North East India is almost six decades old. The thrust areas of aerobiology research during the first decade (1958-1967) were plant diseases and allergic human diseases. Theair samplers used were mainly Petriplate exposure method, Vaseline coated microslide exposure method and kites fitted with Vaseline coated microslides.

The thrust areas of research during second decade (1968-1977) were use of experimental animals for treating allergic human diseases and forecasting plant diseases. The samplers used were exposure of Vaseline smeared slide and nutrientpetriplates etc. The thrust areas of research during the third decade (1978-1987) were viability of airborne fungal spores, and pollen airspora and forecasting of airborne fungal spores, and pollen airspora and forecasting of airborne fungal diseases on crops.

The air samplers used were Durham type aeroscope (modified) microthread exposure methods in Durham type aeroscope and Tilak air sampler. The thrust area of aerobiology research during the fourth decade (1988-1997) were aerobiology and ecologyof plantation sites; aerobiology and bacterial diseases of oak silkworm; aerophycology and soil fertility. The air samplers used during this decade were Nutrient Petriplate exposure method. Durham type aeroscope and Rotorod airsampler.

The thrust areas of aerobiology research during fifth decade (1998-2007) were aeromycologyand biopollution of intramural working environment; aeromycologyand fruit spoilage; aeromycology and crop disease; aeropalynology and amino acid contents of known allergenic plants; aeropalynologyand human allergenic significance. The air samplers used during this decade include nutrient plate exposure method, Rotorod air sampler; Andersen air sampler and Burkard air sampler.

The thrust areas of aerobiology research during sixth decade ( 2008 to till date) are aeromycology and plant disease forecasting;aeromycology and fruit rot diseases, aerophycologyand rice field soil fertility, indoor airborne rot diseases, aerophycology and rice field soil fertility, indoor airborne fungi and health hazards to workers; aeropalynologyand aeroallergens including aerobiologyand bioinformatics. (The Sangai express, 9-13 Sept, 2012).

Prof. N.I. Singh had initiated digitalization for aerobiological data in Manipur. The compilation of data incorporated in three files/folders, viz.,(i) airborne blue green algae of Manipur, (ii) database for airborne fungal spores and (iii) database for providing morphological characters, their allergenic effects and microscopic images of each species which can be viewed (Irabanta Singh, 2013).

He also released a souvenir and compendium stating "Aerobiological and allied field research, teaching and extension at Manipur University (1984-2013) during the National Symposium on Aerobiology for sustainable management of plant, animal and human health (25-26 March, 2013) (Irabanta Singh, 2013). He further releases another Souvenir and compendium stating "Aerobiologyand allied field research, teaching and Technology transfer at Manipur University (1984-2015).

This volume is a monumental work (Irabanta Singh, 2015). Even though Prof.N.I.Singh retired from teaching work, his research work still continues. He re-reviewed "Aerobiologyin North East India in the context of epidemiology and forecasting for fungal diseases of major crop plants" (Irabanta Singh, Int. J. MendalVol. 33(1&2): 63-68, 2016). His latest review work was on "Aerobiology in North East India in the context of health,heritage and environment; which reflects his vast knowledge in the Aerobiology of North East India (Irabanta Singh, J. Mycopath. Res. 54(4): 451-459, 2017).

Prof. N.I. Singh had served Indian Aerobiological Society as Vice- President (2003-07), as President (2007-10) and delivered Presidential address on the topics "Aerobiology in plant pathology and disease management" during 15th National conference on Aerobiology (2009) and "Aerobiology in Plant, Animal and Human health care" during 16th National conference on Aerobiology (2010). He guided 7 M. Phil and 24 Ph.D. students under Manipur University, Canchipur and 3 Ph. D. students under Assam University, Silchar.

Academically Prof. N.I. Singh had a brilliant career. He got B.Sc. Botany (Hons.) (first class first) and M.Sc. Botany (First class second) from Gauhati University, B.T. (NEHU), Ph.D. (Gauhati), PGDHRM (IGNOU), PGDRD (IGNOU), M.A. Pub. Admn. (IGNOU), among the award/honour/recognition received by Prof. N.I. Singh include Fellow (Indian Phytopathological Society Delhi, 1984; Indian College of Allergy, Asthma and Applied Immunology, Delhi, 1985; National Bioresources Society, Varanasi, 1995; Indian Aerobiological Society, Kolkata, 1989; Linnean Society of London, 2008; Indian Mycological Society, Kolkata, 2009; Society of Biology London, 2011); Chartered Biologist, UK (2011) and Chartered Scientist, UK (2012).

Apart from Aerobiology, Prof. N.I. Singh is also well known Mycologist in India. The Indian Mycological Society, Kolkata honored him by awarding 11th Sir E.J. Butler Memorial Lectureship (2012) and published the full text "Certain Aspects of wild edible fleshy fungi of Manipur" (Irabanta Singh, J. Mycopath. Res. 51(1): 1-12, 2013).

The most recent lecture delivered by Prof. Singh, is 3rd Prof. Sunirmal Chanda memorial lecture of the India Aerobiological Society, Kolkata on the topic "Aeropalynology in North East India" during the 20th National conference of Aerobiology, 2018 held at the Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University, Amravati (M.S.) (29-31 January, 2018). That was very impressive lecture. He edited also two books, viz. Endemic Bioresources of India - Conservation and sustainable Development with special reference to North East India (2007) and Microbial resources of Indo-Myanmar (Burma) Hotspot region - Conservation and Sustainable Development with special reference to North East India (2017).

Both books were published by M/S Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh, Dehradun. He also co-authored a book entitled "Parthenium Menance in the Indo-Myanmar Hotspot region - its impact on Biodiversity and Management" published by Lambart Academic publishing, Germany (2017). Prof. N.I. Singh executed 15 (fifteen) major research project with funding from DST, UGC, DBT, ICMR, CSIR, MOEF, AICTE, ICFRE, etc.

He is still continuing with a DBT/GOI Twinning project entitled "Biological control base integrated Parthenium management for saving environment, health and biodiversity in North East India" with Directorate of Weed Science Research, Jabalpur (M.S.).

So far, Prof. N. I. Singh and his students published 143 research papers (128 National and 15 International) in peer reviewed journals. He also had adjudicated 60 M.Phil. /Ph.D. theses of 11 Indian Universities. Thus, Prof. N.I Singh, is a legend in his own lifetime for his contributions to Indian Aerobiology from North East India.

* Prof BN Pande wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The Writer is Ex. Professor & Head, Environmental Science Department Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, Aurangabad and presently visiting Professor, Department of Architecture, Jawaharlal Nehru Engineering College Aurangabad (M.S.)
This article was webcasted on February 22 , 2018.

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