Story by Alayna DeMartini
A soil scientist at The Ohio State University whose research spans five continents was just awarded this year’s World Food Prize for increasing the global food supply by helping small farmers improve their soil.
Over five decades, Rattan Lal, a Distinguished University Professor in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), has reduced hunger by pioneering agricultural methods across the globe that not only restore degraded soil but also reduce global warming.
“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,” said Gebisa Ejeta, chair of the World Food Prize Selection Committee and 2009 recipient of the award issued by the Iowa-based World Food Prize Foundation.
“The impact of his research and advocacy on sustainability of agriculture and the environment cannot be overstressed,” Ejeta said.
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.
As the 2020 winner of the World Food Prize, which was announced via webcast, Lal was awarded $250,000, which he will donate for future soil research and education. He is the first at Ohio State to receive the award.
“It is a privilege and honor to be of service to the many small farmers from around the world because I was one of them. They are stewards of the land. They are the ones with the tremendous challenge of feeding the world,” said Lal, who is founding director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center in CFAES at Ohio State.
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