Washington DC, June 12: Eminent Indian-American soil scientist Dr. Rattan Lal won the prestigious World Food Prize, for developing and mainstreaming a Soil-centric approach to increasing food production that conserves natural resources and mitigates Climate Change. Lal was awarded $250,000, which he said he will donate for future soil research and education.
Dr. Lal's research in soil science shows that the solution to this problem is right under our feet. He's helping the earth's estimated 500 million small farmers be faithful stewards of their land through improved management, less soil degradation, and the recycling of nutrients.
The billions of people who depend on these farms stand to benefit greatly from his work. From his humble beginnings as a refugee growing up on a small subsistence farm in India, Lal's determination to learn and succeed in school propelled him to become one of the world's foremost soil scientists.
The techniques Lal has advocated include eliminating plowing, retaining crop residue left after harvest, planting cover crops, minimizing the use of chemical fertilizers, and setting aside land and water for nature, rather than for agriculture or other purposes. Each practice comes at low cost, affordable even to farmers in the developing world.
Lal's models indicate that restoring soil health can lead to multiple benefits by the year 2100, including more than doubling the global annual grain yield to feed the growing world population, while decreasing the land area under grain cultivation by 30 percent and decreasing total fertilizer use by half.
"Receiving the WFP reaffirms my strong belief that the noble task of research and teaching of soil science and agriculture is a world-class profession, and is the basis of my soil–centric strategy," -Dr. Lal- 2020 said.
Making this a reality will enormously benefit farmers, food consumers, and the environment. Achieving hunger-free humanity, soil degradation neutrality, negative emission farming, and pollutant-free water are among principal challenges that can never be ignored, he said
“So this award to a soil scientist highlights the importance of restoring and managing soil health. WE need to give more attention to Dharti Mata (mother earth). Our Shastras and Puranas also indicated that we must pay respect to Dharti Mata. So this award means a lot to me,” Dr. Lal said.
The “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture,” the World Food Prize is the most prominent global award recognizing an individual who has enhanced human development and confronted global hunger through improving the quality, quantity or availability of food.
Dr. Lal was born in West Punjab and after Partition, in 1947 his family ended up in Pakistan. The family left and resettled in Haryana, about 100 miles northwest of Delhi. He was a Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science at Ohio State University.
Lal has worked on the premise that the health of the soil, plants, animals, people, and the environment is indivisible. Dr. Lal’s career began in Nigeria where he looked at the issue of soil erosion and degradation in sub-Saharan Africa. He found that deforestation and agricultural cultivation exposed the soil to the harsh tropical climate, causing erosion.
He explored and transformed techniques such as no-tillage, cover cropping, mulching, and agroforestry that protected the soil from the elements, conserved water, and returned nutrients, carbon, and organic matter to the soil.
In 2007, he was among those recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize Certificate for his contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, when the IPCC was named co-recipient of the Nobel Prize.