An Ohio State professor who has been pushing the boundaries of his field is being recognized for his work on an international level.
The Japan Prize Foundation announced on Wednesday that Rattan Lal, a professor in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, would be one of two award winners. Yoshio Okamoto, professor emeritus at Nagoya University in Nagoya, Japan, was the other recipient.
The Japan Prize — awarded to two recipients each year regardless of nationality — recognizes all sciences but picks two disciplines to focus on each year. This year’s disciplines were “Materials and Production” and “Biological Production, Ecology,” the latter of which Lal’s work falls under.
“Lal globally documented and promoted the concept of soil organic carbon management and sequestration as critical to achieving food and nutritional security, and adaptation and mitigation of climate change,” the announcement from the foundation said.
The Japan Prize winners are picked from a “highly competitive” field of 15,000 applications that are submitted by February of each year and then considered by the foundation from March to November.
Lal’s work, which began in the 1970s, pioneered no-tillage agriculture and methods to sequester carbon, and has focused on feeding a growing world and combating climate change.
Lal’s no-tillage approach helps fight against degradation of soil to create more sustainable farming in areas with fragile soil and harsh climates — such as sub-Saharan Africa where his work began.
“He integrated these options with diverse methods of land clearance and promoted the adoption of these technologies throughout the tropics and globally with the objectives of developing sustainable systems which save land and reduce the need for tropical deforestation,” the announcement said.
His work in carbon sequestration — which is the long-term storage of carbon in the atmosphere — looks into how plants can be used to capture carbon that is escaping into the atmosphere.
“The soil management approach proposed by Prof. Lal of sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide using crops has numerous co-benefits, such as improved water quality and renewability, increased soil biodiversity, reduced risks of soil degradation and land desertification, and increased use-efficiency of agricultural inputs,” Wednesday’s announcement said.
Lal will officially receive the award — a certificate and commemorative gold coin — on April 8 in Tokyo. In addition, he will receive a cash award of 50 million Japanese yen, which is approximately $450,000.