Soil health is critical to meeting global challenges like eliminating hunger and ensuring clean drinking water, says this year's World Food Prize winner, who pioneered research on sequestering carbon in soil as a way to battle climate change.
Research by Rattan Lal (pictured), a distinguished professor of soil science at Ohio State University, showed how plants could pull carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the soil, preventing it from combining with oxygen and creating carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
"This breakthrough research transformed the way the world saw soils," the World Food Prize Foundation, a US non-profit that sponsors the annual $250,000 prize. "As a result, soils are now not only the foundation for increasing the quality and quantity of food and preserving natural ecosystems, but an important part of mitigating climate change, as well," the foundation said in its release.
But that's only part of it. We all know that rapidly growing populations are in danger of out racing the planet's ability to feed everyone.
The even better news, therefore, is that Lal’s models indicate that, by the turn of the century, restoring soil health around the world could more than double the annual grain yield to feed the growing world population while decreasing the land area under grain cultivation by 30% and reducing total fertilizer use by half.
"It has many, many benefits," Lal said. "Food and nutrition is one. Water quality is another one. Biodiversity is another one. Biofuel fuel production another."