Eminent Indian-American soil scientist Dr. Rattan Lal has been selected as this year’s World Food Prize Laureate and will receive a $250,000 award for his work in promoting soils for sustainable development. Dr Lal, 75, is named as the 2020 World Food Prize Laureate for developing and mainstreaming a soil-centric approach to increasing food production that conserves natural resources and mitigates climate change.
He is helping millions of small farmers around the world with his work on increasing food production and recycling of nutrients.US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo
Dr. Lal spent 18 years at CGIAR Research Center in Africa, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), where he spearheaded research demonstrating that soil organic matter and carbon are crucial to sustaining and enhancing the quantity and quality of food production. He transformed and innovated techniques such as no-tillage, cover cropping, mulching and agroforestry, which contributed to protecting soil from the elements, conserving water, and returning nutrients, carbon and organic matter to the soil.
Soils of the world must be part of any agenda to address climate change, as well as food and water security. I think there is now a general awareness of soil carbon, an awareness that soil isn’t just a medium for plant growth.Dr. Rattan Lal, 2020 World Food Prize Laureate
A faculty member at Ohio State for 33 years, Lal was recognized for his contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. In 2019, Lal became the first soil scientist and the first person at Ohio State to receive the Japan Prize. A year before, he received the 2018 World Agriculture Prize and the 2018 Glinka World Soil Prize.
“Every year we are astounded by the quality of nominations for the Prize, but Dr. Lal’s stellar work on management and conservation of agriculture’s most cherished natural resource, the soil, set him apart.”Gebisa Ejeta, chair of the World Food Prize Selection Committee
Beginning in the 1970s with his research in West Africa, Lal has discovered ways to reduce deforestation, control soil erosion, and enrich soil by managing a critical element in the soil: organic carbon. His research has provided the scientific foundation to show that soil can not only solve the global challenge of food insecurity but also global warming.
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. Making this a reality will enormously benefit farmers, food consumers and the environment.