ESMC October 2020

Executive Director Update: Congratulations to World Food Prize 2020 Laureate Dr Rattan Lal

During this season of Nobel Prize winners, I would like to take the chance to recognize the winner of the 2020 World Food Prize, Dr. Rattan Lal of Ohio State University. The Prize was announced in June 2020. The World Food Prize – referred to often as the “Noble Prize for Food and Agriculture,” “recognizes an individual who has enhanced human development and confronted global hunger through improving the quality, quantity or availability of food.”

Dr Lal’s work investigating the role of soil carbon and soil carbon sequestration in agricultural production systems paved the way for all that we know today about soil carbon sequestration and its link to increased soil tilth, productivity, and fertility. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr Lal in the late 1990s when I was working on agricultural and climate change for US Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska. Dr Lal of Ohio State University and Dr John Kimble, then of the USDA soil health laboratory in Lincoln, Nebraska, spoke together during an EPA-sponsored symposium on soil carbon sequestration in Washington, DC. Dr Lal’s vibrant and enthusiastic knowledge of soil carbon and its role in agricultural productivity and resilience was compelling and contagious. Senator Kerrey immediately seized on the opportunity to engage Dr Lal in helping other lawmakers realize the role and the potential of soil in improving the human condition, and in combating climate change. We tapped that knowledge and enthusiasm a great deal over the next few years as we pursued a means to reward farmers and ranchers for their actions that can help reduce GHG. We invited Dr Lal to testify before the Senate, and to brief Senators and their staff; he penned books and letters to help convince policymakers of the critical role of agriculture in soil carbon sequestration as a win-win approach to combating climate change.

Dr Lal’s tireless work, his compassion and drive, and insightful application of this work to humankind has thus been instrumental in both scientific and research as well as policy arenas. Over the years, as I have continued to work in the climate and agriculture space in various capacities, I have had the continued pleasure to work with Dr. Lal. His prolific body of research, publications, and contributions to the global discussion on soil health, soil carbon sequestration, and agricultural climate change mitigation and human livelihoods is evidence of the merit of this award and the countless others he has received over his career.

I want to congratulate Dr Lal, and thank him on behalf of ESMC and our many members, partners, and collaborators. I personally owe a debt of gratitude to Dr Lal for educating me and always being willing to share his knowledge selflessly. Collectively, we knowingly or unknowingly owe a debt of gratitude to him for our ability to focus on scaling soil health systems that benefit society – work that builds on the foundation of soil carbon and soil health that he has dedicated a lifetime pursuing. Click here for a complete bio of 2020’s World Food Prize Laureate, Dr Rattan Lal.

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