Eminent Soil Scientist Dr Rattan Lal receives World Food Prize 2020
Dr Rattan Lal becomes the recipient of the $250,000 award for promoting soils for sustainable development.
Leading soil scientist Dr Rattan Lal was announced 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.
The 2020 Laureate Announcement Ceremony featured pre-recorded remarks from the U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue with World Food Prize Foundation President Barbara Stinson announcing the name of the Laureate.
“The world’s population continues to grow, and we need to use the resources we have more productively and efficiently to make sure everyone has enough food on their table,” said Secretary Pompeo. “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 though 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. His pioneering research on the restoration of soil health in Africa, Asia and Latin America led to revelations that impacted agricultural yields, natural resource conservation and climate change mitigation. The agricultural practices Lal advocated are now at the heart of efforts to improve agriculture systems in the tropics and globally.
“The unbound joy and excitement of receiving the 2020 World Food Prize reminds me about the gratitude, privilege and honor of working for farmers from around the world,” said Dr Lal, who now serves as Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science and founding Director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at The Ohio State University (OSU).
Always working on the premise that the health of soil, plants, animals, people and the environment is indivisible, Dr. Lal began his research career at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, developing soil health restoration projects across Asia, Africa and Latin America. 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. This in turn improved the long-term sustainability of agroecosystems and minimized the risks to farmers of droughts, floods, and other effects of a changing climate.
“Dr. Lal is a trailblazer in soil science with a prodigious passion for research that improves soil health, enhances agricultural production, improves the nutritional quality of food, restores the environment and mitigates climate change,” said Stinson. “His decades of work to address all of these elements fully warrants his recognition as the 50th World Food Prize Laureate.”
“Achieving hunger-free humanity, soil degradation neutrality, negative emission farming and pollutant-free water are among principal challenges which can never be ignored,” said Dr. Lal.” Sustainable management of soil and agriculture is also essential to keeping global temperatures within the safe range and restoring the environment.”