Dil Thavarajah

Professor of Pulse Quality and Nutritional Breeding
Clemson University School of Health Faculty Research Scholar
Agricultural and Environmental Science Department, Plant and Environmental Sciences Department

Office: 113 BRC
Phone: 864-656-2607
Fax: 864-656-4960

Email: dthavar@clemson.edu
Personal Website: https://www.clemson.edu/cafls/organic-breeding/index.html

 Educational Background

Ph.D Plant Science
University of Saskatchewan, Canada 2006

MSc Soil Sciecne
University of Saskatchewan, Canada 2002

BSc Soil Science
University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka 1996

 Courses Taught

1. HORT 4560: Vegetable Crops (Spring - odd years)
2. PES 4760: Global Food Security (Fall - odd years)


Dil Thavarajah is a Professor at Clemson University Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. Dil is leading Pulse Biofortification and Nutritional Breeding program. She also co-leads the Phenomics component of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement at Cornell University. Before her current position, Dil worked at the Canadian lentil breeding and biofortification program at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. She started the national Pulse Quality and Nutrition Laboratory at North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND, to support the US Pulse industry's nutritional marketing. Dil is internationally recognized as a leader in pulse biofortification, especially for iron, zinc, and selenium. Dil serves as an honorary visiting lecturer at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and a key research partner to the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) to release biofortified lentil cultivars for Africa and Asia.

 Research Interests

I am interested in finding whole-food-based solutions to combat global “hidden hunger” - micronutrient malnutrition, obesity, and overweight. Major research areas are (1) Pulse Breeding for Nutritional traits (Biofortification): Organic pulse crop nutritional breeding – developing organically biofortified dry pea, lentil, and chickpea cultivars for SC and NC (NIFA-OREI); International Agriculture Development – Phenomics (micronutrient enrichment) - increase micronutrient concentration and bioavailability - iron, zinc, selenium, carotenoids, vitamin B, folates in lentil, field pea and chickpea; understand the different forms of phytic acids types benefit to humans and plants to increase phosphorus bioavailability (USAID; USDA-ARS for chickpea); Organic Plant Proteins: developing pulse protein ingredients with balanced amino acid profiles (the Good Food Institute, FoodShot Global); (2) Prebiotic Carbohydrates and Gut Microbiome: Pulse crops used as a whole foods to reduce obesity, and identify obesity metabolic biomarkers using animal models and cell cultures, and (3) Food Systems towards global food security: Developing sustainable food systems to provide daily dietary needs using pulse crops, roots, and Brassica vegetables. Current food system efforts - Tiger Gardens” and ‘Lunch Box.” Global food security research collaborators are the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Morocco and India; HarvestPlus; Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC); University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.

Major Grants
1. AFRI-NIFA-OREI: Breeding high protein pulse crops for organic systems
2. AFRI-NIFA-OREI: Breeding organic pulses for SC
3. USDA-ARS: Improving the nutritional value of chickpea
4. The Good Food Institute: Organic field pea protein ingredients
5. Foodshot Global - Precision Pulse Protein
6. SC Department of Agriculture - Pulse Breeding for SC

 Lab Members

Nathan Johnson – Consultant- Bioinformatics
Tristan Lawrence – Field Operations
Emersion Shipe – Pulse Breeder
Priya Joshi - Post-Doctoral Fellow
Adam Kay – Lab Specialist ll
Richard Baker – Research Associate
Sonia Salaria – Doctoral Student
Mark Dempsey – Doctoral Student
Nathan Windsor – Doctoral Student
Amod Madurapperumage – Doctoral student
Jacob Johnson– UPIC Intern
Ashely Terry – Undergraduate research intern

 Extension and Outreach

Extension responsibilities include promoting conventional and organic pulse crops as winter cash crops/cover crops to SC and advocating healthy eating by introducing the “Tiger Garden” model to local elementary schools.


Refereed Journal Articles
†Denotes graduate student co-author from my program.
‡Denotes corresponding senior author (Project PI).
*Undergraduate student co-author from my program.

1. Dil Thavarajah‡, Tristan Lawrence, Lucas Boatwright, Nathan Windsor, Nathan Johnson, Joshua Kay, Emerson Shipe, Shiv Kumar, Pushparajah Thavarajah, 2023. Organic dry pea (Pisum sativum L.): a sustainable alternative pulse-based protein for human health. PLoS ONE 18(4): e0284380. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0284380.
2. Sonia Salaria†, J. Lucas Boatwright, Nathan Johnson, Priyanka Joshi, Pushparajah Thavarajah, George Vandemark, Dil Thavarajah‡, 2023. Fatty acid composition and genome-wide associations of a chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) diversity panel for biofortification efforts. Scientific Report. Submission ID c3b96c8f-2d78-45fe-ad8b-da64ca0f29a7.
3. Nathan Johnson†, J Lucas Boatwright, William Bridges, Pushparajah Thavarajah, Shiv Kumar, Dil Thavarajah‡, 2023. Targeted improvement of plant-based protein: Genome-wide association mapping of a lentil (Lens culinaris Medik.) diversity panel. PPP, PPP-MS-2023-00644.
4. Tony Reda†, Pushparajah Thavarajah, William Bridges, Scott Whiteside, Robert Polomski, Emerson Shipe, Dil Thavarajah‡, 2022. Shelf life of greenhouse- and garden-grown kale in nitrogen-enriched and non-enriched packaging. HortScience, 57(11), 1466-1472. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI16770-22.
5. Dil Thavarajah‡, Tristan J. Lawrence, Sarah E. Powers, Joshua Kay, Pushparajah Thavarajah, Emerson Shipe, Rebecca McGee, Shiv Kumar, Rick Boyles, 2022. Organic dry pea (Pisum sativum L.) biofortification for better human health. PLOS One, January 13, 2022, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0261109.
6. Sonia Salaria†, Jon Lucas Boatwright, Pushparajah Thavarajah, Shiv Kumar, Dil Thavarajah‡, 2022. Protein biofortification in lentils (Lens culinaris Medikus.) toward human health. Frontiers in Plant Science, Plant Breeding 13:869713. 05 April 2022 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2022.869713.
7. Amod Udayanga†, Nathan Johnson†, Pushparajah Thavarajah, Leung Tang, Dil Thavarajah‡, 2022. Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) as a high-throughput phenotyping tool for quantifying protein quality in pulse crops. The Plant Phenome Journal, 5, e20047. https://doi.org/10.1002/ppj2.20047.
8. Tony Reda†, Sarah Powers, Dil Thavarajah‡, 2022. Falling into line: adaptation of organically grown kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) and kale relatives to fall planting. Scientia Horticulturae. 295: 15 March 2022, 110878, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scienta.2022.110878.
9. Hasnae Choukri, Noureddine El Haddad, Khawla Aloui, Kamal Hejjaoui, Adil El-Baouchi, Abdelaziz Smouni, Dil Thavarajah, Fouad Maalouf, Shiv Kumar, 2022. High-temperature stress during the reproductive stage effects on grain yield and nutritional quality of lentil (Lens culinaris Medikus). Front. Nutr., 15 April 2022 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.857469.
10. Amod Udayanga†, Leung Tang, Pushparajah Thavarajah, William Bridges, Emerson Shipe, George Vandemark, Dil Thavarajah‡, 2021. Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) as a source of essential fatty acids – a biofortification approach. Frontiers in Plant Science, Plant Breeding. 12:734980. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.734980.
11. Sarah Powers†, J Lucas Boatwright, Dil Thavarajah‡, 2021. Genome-wide association studies of mineral and phytic acid concentrations in pea (Pisum sativum L.) to evaluate biofortification potential. G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics, jkab227,
12. Nathan Johnson†, J Lucas Boatwright, William Bridges, Pushparajah Thavarajah, Shiv Kumar, Emerson Shipe, Dil Thavarajah‡, 2021. Genome-wide association mapping of lentil (Lens culinaris Medikus) prebiotic carbohydrates toward improved human health and crop stress tolerance. Scientific Reports, 11, 13926, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-93475-3.
13. Manish Roorkiwal, Sarita Pandey, Dil Thavarajah, Hemalatha R, Rajeev Varshney‡ 2021. Molecular mechanisms and biochemical pathways for micronutrient acquisition and storage in legumes to support biofortification for nutritional security. Frontiers in Plant Science, Plant Breeding. 12:682842. https://dx.doi.org/10.3389%2Ffpls.2021.682842.
14. Dil Thavarajah‡, Tristan Lawrence, Sarah Powers, Boone John, Nathan Johnson, Joshua Kay, Anuradha Bandaranayake, Emerson Shipe, Pushparajah Thavarajah, 2021. Genetic variation in the prebiotic carbohydrate and mineral composition of kale (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala) adapted to an organic cropping system. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 96:103718
15. Tony Reda†, Pushaparajah Thavarajah, Robert Polomski, William Bridges, Emerson Shipe, Dil Thavarajah‡, 2021. Reaching the Highest Shelf: An Organic Approach to Increasing the Nutritional Quality and Shelf Life of Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala). Plants, People, Planet, February 15, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1002/ppp3.10183.


Handle: @CpulsesBreeding
Channel: ‘Clemson Pulse Breeding’
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