Riaz Mahmood (second left in yellow shirt) is pictured after receiving a shield from Dr Zafar (centre) and a certificate from Mr MacIntosh (second from right).

In the year that Riaz Mahmood started work as a biological control scientist at CABI in 1968, Apollo 8 was launched to begin the first US mission to orbit the Moon.

Now in 2018, Mr Mahmood, a Senior Biological Control Specialist at CABI’s Centre for Central and West Asia (CWA) based in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, is celebrating half a century of loyal service.

Mr Mahmood, a member of the Pakistan Society of Sugar Technologists and the Pakistan Entomological Society, was presented with a certificate by Neil MacIntosh, CABI’s HR Director, in the presence of distinguished guests including Dr Yusuf Zafar, Chairman of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, who presented a shield, in recognition of his long service.

Mr Mahmood has dedicated his career which has seen him, either as lead or co-author, produce 45 research papers published in peer-reviewed journals, complete 43 short and long-term research projects and develop innovations including establishing a Natural Enemies Field Reservoir (NEFR) for pests on farms.

This technological advancement resulted in the classic control of cotton mealy bug (Phenacoccus solenopsis) in Pakistan, between 2008 and 2010, and for papaya mealy bug (Paracoccus marginatus) in Karachi from 2015 to 2016 with complete stoppage of pesticides in papaya crop. By integrating NEFR with other control measures in 2004 to 2006, there was a 45 percent decrease in damage to guava fruits. Mr Mahmood also achieved a significant reduction in damage to mango using the same methods.

Mr Mahmood’s science has also resulted in him obtaining identifications from international specialists and the Natural History Museum in the UK for more than 1,000 species of insect pests, parasitoids and predators. These identified specimens were deposited with the National Insect Museum at CABI (CWA), Rawalpindi.

After graduating with an MSc (Hons) in Zoology, specializing in Entomology, from the University of the Punjab in Lahore in 1967, Mr Mahmood began his career investigating the biology and ecology of pests’ natural enemies. This included fruit flies, scale insects, borers, codling moth and red palm weevil in horticultural crops and army worms, pyrilla, white flies, aphids and borers on sugarcane, maize, wheat and other grasses. He also researched bark beetles, adelges and saw flies on conifers, mealy bugs, white flies, jassids, army worms and bollworms on cotton crops.

Mr Mahmood said, ‘I am proud to have worked for an organization like CABI for so long and continue to enjoy my profession with much satisfaction.

‘I am also delighted to say that I have achieved, to some extent, what I set for my career in research on the biological control of pests since my MSc studentship when I visited the then Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control, Pakistan Station, Rawalpindi, in 1966.

‘It was at this Institute, later to become CABI that I learnt about biological control principles from seniors and received a most fascinating insight into the rearing of parasitoids and predators of pests at the centre. It was at this time that I decided I wanted to join CABI and build my research career.’

Mr Mahmood is currently, as part of a Phytosanitary Risk Management Program in Pakistan, is investigating a biological control for codling moth in apples in Baluchistan and fruit flies and mealy bug in Gilgit-Balistan. He is also working on a project to identify endemic natural enemies associated with red palm weevil and apply conservation biological control for its sustainable management in Khair Pur district, Sindh.

Mr Mahmood work with CABI has already enabled the supply from Pakistan of natural enemies of agricultural, forests and weed pests to a number of countries including USA, UK, Switzerland, Trinidad, Syria, Australia, China, Russia, Swaziland, Nigeria, Myanmar and France

Dr Trevor Nicholls, CABI’s CEO, said, ‘To reach 50 years continuous and loyal service in any career is an outstanding achievement. But when you consider that Riaz has essentially dedicated almost a lifetime in researching pests and diseases so that farmers can improve their livelihoods for themselves, their families and improve food security for others – his achievement is all the more impressive.

‘I have no doubt that his research over the past half century has contributed significantly to CABI¬ís mission of improving people¬ís lives by using scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment – with a particular focus in recent year of helping out work towards meeting the UN¬ís Sustainable Development Goals.’

Mr Mahmood is widowed from his wife Shaukat Ara, who was Principal at the Federal Education Department in Islamabad. Together they have two daughters, Shafaque Riaz, MSc, who works as a computer science teacher at the International Baccalaureate in Dubai, and Dr Mehwish Riaz, who is a senior research scientist at Exiger in Toronto, Canada. They also have a son, Dr Rizwan Mehmood.

When not involved in conducting research, Mr Mahmood enjoys travelling in mountains, valleys and plains – walking and observing biodiversity in the field. He is also a keen cricket fan, rarely missing Pakistan matches. He also likes chat shows and watching comedy on TV.

Additional information

Read more about CABI’s Phytosanitary Risk Management Programme in Pakistan here:

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