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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Ag Icon Gone, But His Work Must Carry On, Says OSU Soil Scientist

September 15, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The global agricultural community lost an icon on Sept. 12.

Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug, considered the father of the "Green Revolution" for pulling the population in many Third World countries from the brink of starvation for his work in wheat development, has passed away. But he leaves behind decades of technological know-how of food security and land sustainability that have been instrumental in feeding the world's growing population.

"Land sustainability was his vision and we have been guided by his ideas. His life will be celebrated and I hope that the younger generation will follow in his footsteps. We continue to face the challenge of feeding a growing global population – 10 billion by the end of the century, and we can meet those challenges through Borlaug's contributions," said Rattan Lal, an Ohio State University soil scientist with the School of Environment and Natural Resources. "He showed us that we can produce more food on less land – increasing efficiencies while decreasing losses through modern technological innovations."

Lal, a world-renown soil scientist in his own right, was a 2005 recipient of the Norman Borlaug Award. Borlaug himself presented the award to Lal for his contributions in global food security and his work in sustainable management of soil and natural resources, specifically as it relates to carbon sequestration. In addition, Lal received the M.S. Swaminathan Award last month for his contributions to agricultural research. Borlaug was the first recipient of the award.

"I was receiving the Normal Borlaug award from him at a time when he was receiving the M.S. Swaminathan Award. It's a humbling experience to be linked to him," said Lal. "His brilliance was like that of a star, and people like me are just small lamps."

Borlaug visited The Ohio State University in 2003, giving a presentation on world agriculture in the 21st century.

Borlaug, an Iowa native, was an agricultural researcher who developed a high-yielding short-strawed, disease-resistant wheat that sparked the "Green Revolution." The production movement, which swept the globe during the 1960s, helped lift countries such as Pakistan and India out of starvation. The wheat is still being grown in Latin America, the Near and Middle East and Africa.

Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in food production.

Candace Pollock
Rattan Lal