Robert Zeigler


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IRRI's Director General Robert "Bob" Zeigler

Dr. Robert "Bob" Zeigler is an internationally respected plant pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in agricultural research in the developing world. He is the first Director General Emeritus of IRRI.

Bob's professional life spanned Africa, Latin America, US, and Asia. He has had a productive research career on diseases of rice that focused on host-plant resistance, pathogen and vector population genetics, and their interactions to develop durable resistance and sustainable disease management practices.

As Bob's career moved increasingly towards research management his interests expanded to include broader crop management issues, the social forces shaping the agricultural environment, and finally the economic and political arena that frames food security and poverty issues. He has published over 100 scientific works in these areas and often serves as an expert resource on rice security in the regional and global media.

Bob is also the founding chairman of the board of the IRRI Fund Singapore, an incorporated nonprofit charitable organization established to raise the profile of international rice research and generate funding for it. He served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Association of International Agricultural Research Centers that manages a wide range of employee benefits for internationally recruited staff for the 15 CGIAR centers and several affiliated centers. He also served on the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board.


  • Rice and food security
  • Rice and poverty
  • Rice research at IRRI
  • Plant pathology


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Cornell University and CIAT. Major field: Plant Pathology. Minor field: Plant Breeding (1982)
  • Master of Science, Oregon State University. Major field: Forest Ecology. Minor field: Soils/Statistics (1978)
  • Bachelor of Science (High Honors), University of Illinois. Major field: Biological Sciences. Minor field: Chemistry and Mathematics (1972)


  • Director General, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) (2005-2015)
  • Director, Generation Challenge Program (2004-2005)
  • Professor and Head, Department of Plant Pathology and Director, Plant Biotechnology Center, Kansas State University (1999-2004)
  • Leader, Irrigated Rice Research Program and Plant Pathologist, IRRI (1992-1998)
  • Leader, Rainfed Lowland Rice Research Program and Plant Pathologist, IRRI (1992-1996)
  • Leader, Rice Program, Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia (1986-1992)
  • Senior Staff Plant Pathologist, CIAT Rice Program (1985-1992)
  • Technical adviser, Burundi Maize Program, Institut des Sciences Agronomique du Burundi. Employed by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada (1982-1985)
  • Visiting Research Associate, CIAT Cassava Program (1980-1981)
  • Cornell University. Graduate Research Assistant/Teaching Assistant, Department of Plant Pathology (1978-1980)
  • Oregon State University. Graduate Research/Teaching Assistant, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology (1975-1977)
  • Technician, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle (1974-1975)
  • Secondary School Science Teacher, College Musim, Mokala, Zaire. (Peace Corps) (1972-1974)


  • Order of Sikatuna, Grand Cross (Rank of Datu), Gold Distinction (Katangiang Ginto) (2015)
  • Doctor of Science (honoris causa), Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, India (2015)
  • Elected Fellow, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences of India (2015)
  • Doctor of Science (honoris causa) from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, India (2014)
  • Leadership in Science Public Service Award, American Society of Plant Biologists (2013)
  • International Plant Protection Award of Distinction, International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences (IAPPS) (2011)
  • Doctor of Science (honoris causa), Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Uttarakhand, India (2011)
  • Partnership Award for Innovative Program Models (Team Member of the National Plant Diagnostic Network Team), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA (2010)
  • Medal for the Cause of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Vietnam (2010)
  • E.C. Stakman Award, University of Minnesota (2010)
  • Fellow, American Phytopathological Society (2008)
  • Outstanding Alumnus, Oregon State University’s College of Agriculture (2008)
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2007)
  • Time Magazine Global Innovator Award (2007)
  • Doctor of Science (honoris causa), Sardar Vallavh Bhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology, Modupuram, Uttar Pradesh, India (2007)
  • Medal of recognition for the Cause of Agricultural Development in Vietnam (2007)
  • Who’s Who in Agricultural Higher Education (2003)
  • International Service Award, the American Phytopathological Society (2001)
  • Gamma Sigma Delta (Honor Society of Agriculture) (2000)
  • Outstanding Research PublicationAward, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (1996)
  • Outstanding Research PublicationAward, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (1994)
  • Sigma Xi (1982)


Bob's full list of publications

  1. Zeigler RS. 2014. Biofortification: Vitamin A deficiency and the case for golden rice. In: A. Ricroch et al, editors. Plant Biotechnology: experience and future prospects. Switzerland: Springer International. p 245-262.
  2. The 3000 rice genome project. 2014. The 3,000 rice genomes project. GigaScience 3:7 (DataNote)
  3. Li JY, Wang J, Zeigler RS. 2014. The 3,000 rice genomes project: new opportunities and challenges for future rice research. GigaScience 3:8 (Commentary)
  4. Zeigler RS. 2013. Food security, climate change and genetic resources. In: Jackson M, Ford-Lloyd B, Parry M, editors. Plant Genetic Resources and Climate Change. UK: CAB International. p 1-15.
  5. Zeigler RS, Mohanty S. 2010. Support for international agricultural research: current status and future challenges. New Biotechnol. 27(5): 565-572.
  6. Plant Diseases and the World’s Dependence on Rice, R. S. Zeigler and S. Savary in The Role of Plant Pathology in Food Safety and Food Security, Plant Pathology in the 21st Century, 2010, Volume 3, Part 1, 3-9.
  7. Zeigler, R. S. , The relevance of rice. Rice 1(1): 3-10, ill. Ref. Sept. 2008.
  8. Zeigler, R. S., Sustainability of rice production systems: water, soil, and ecosystem services. In: Rice, water, and forests, ed. by S. J. Banta, p. 83-115, ill. Ref. Los Banos, Laguna: Asia Rice Foundation, 2008.
  9. Nutrient-pest interactions under irrigated lowland rice production systems with farmer's fertilizer practice and site-specific nutrient management in South & Southeast Asia, Cruz PCS, Dobermann A, Du F, Simbahan GC, Hill JE, Zeigler RS, Dela Pena FA, Samiayyan K, Suparyon, Tuat NV, Zhong Z. Philippine Journal of Crop Science, Volume: 32 Issue: 1 Pages: 13-28 Published: APR 2007.
  10. Zeigler RS, Why rice is still important in Asia and what IRRI is doing about it. In: Does rice have a future in Asia? p. 3-11, ill. (S.l.: S.n.), 2007.
  11. Zeigler, R. S. Title Rice and the millennium development goals: the International Rice Research Institute's strategic plan 2007-2015. Source Paddy Water Environ. 5(2): 67-71. June 2007.
  12. Zeigler, R. S. Bringing hope, improving lives. In: Science, technology and trade for peace and prosperity (electronic resource): proceedings of the 26th International Rice Research Conference, 9-12 October 2006, New Delhi, India, ed. by P. K Aggarwal, et al., p. 15-22. New Delhi: National Academy of Agricultural Sciences; Los Baños, Laguna : IRRI, 2007.


Director General Robert Zeigler addressed around 1,500 attendees from 69 countries at the opening ceremony of the 4th International Rice Congress, or IRC2014, at the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (BITEC).

Interviews and media appearances

Talks and seminars

Press citations

Media releases and news items

IRRI references