Soil Scientist Prof Rattan Lal is 50th World Food Prize Laureate


June 2020: The World Food Prize Foundation announced that Prof Rattan Lal, renowned soil scientist was the 50th World Food Prize laureate. The announcement recognized Prof Lal “for developing and mainstreaming a soil-centric approach to increasing food production that restores and conserves natural resources and mitigates climate change.” Lal’s soil-centric approach is based on the premise that “the health of soil, plants, animals, people and the environment is one and indivisible.”

The World Food Prize, considered the foremost award for ensuring quality, quantity and availability of food for all, was instituted by Prof Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Laureate and is considered the ‘agriculture Nobel’. Prof M S Swaminathan was the first recipient of the World Food Prize in 1987 and set up MSSRF with proceeds from this prize.

In a video message played out on the occasion, Prof Swaminathan referred to Prof Rattan Lal as a ‘transformation agent’ and a crusader for soil health, just as Borlaug himself was a crusader for plant health. “I congratulate a very dear friend. He will always remain a source of inspiration to all of us” he said, urging him to continue his work.

In an email to Prof Swaminathan, Prof Lal wrote, “Your message and the e-mail will be treasured and cherished in my family for generations to come. To me, the WFP award is special because it was 50th while you were the first, and my award also coincides with the 50th anniversary of Dr Borlaug receiving the Nobel Prize. I must have done some good karma that Gods have been so benevolent and kind to me. Your contributions to global agriculture remain unique and iconic. I feel greatly honored to be counted #50 in the prestigious WFP series that began with you.”

MSSRF has been privileged to work closely with Prof Rattan Lal’s insights as he led a joint project from Ohio State University on sustainable management of natural resources. Funded by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, it was implemented in three project sites across three different ecosystems Pudukottai – red soils; Narasinghpur and Hoshangabad districts – black soils and Nawanshahar and Faridkot districts – alluvial soils. Through a demonstration-and-training mode it improved agricultural land and water management practices for food security and environmental quality between 2001 and 2005/06. Drs S P Palaniappan, R Balasubramanian and M Velayutham led the MSSRF team side of the research. Read published work here:


Written by: Jayashree B

Photo credit: World food Prize Foundation