Israeli scientist awarded 2012 World Food Prize for micro-irrigation

Israeli scientist Daniel Hillel was awarded the 2012 World Food Prize here Thursday evening for conceiving and implementing a radically new mode of bringing water to crops in arid and dry land regions, known as micro-irrigation.

Hillel’s pioneering scientific work in Israel revolutionized food production, first in the Middle East, and then in other regions around the world over the past five decades. His work laid the foundation for maximizing efficient water usage in agriculture, increasing crop yields, and minimizing environmental degradation.

Hillel proved that plants grown in continuously moist soil, achieved through micro-irrigation, produced higher yields than plants grown under the old flooding or sprinkler irrigation methods.

Using less water in agriculture per unit of land not only conserves a scarce resource in arid and semi-arid regions, but also results in significantly “more crop per drop,” with the successful cultivation of field crops and fruit trees – even in coarse sands and gravel.

By integrating complex scientific principles, designing practical applications, and achieving wide outreach to farmers, communities, researchers, and agricultural policymakers in more than 30 countries, Hillel has impacted the lives of millions.

Receiving the award, Hillel said his joy was “tempered by the realization that work is far from completed” and that enhancing agricultural productivity and protecting the environment is still a challenge.

The scientist who is also awarded for bridging the cultural and religious divide in the advancement of science and technology, vowed to keep on breaking sectarian barriers to promote international cooperation and inter-disciplinary exchanges.

In his speech at the laureate award ceremony held here at the Iowa State capitol, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed Hillel as a “remarkable scientist” in fighting drought.

The UN chief referred to the right to food as the “fundamental human right”, noting “Ending hunger is a wise thing, smart thing and necessary thing to do, something we must do.”

The World Food Prize was founded in 1986 by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, whose pioneering work in producing higher yielding strains of wheat ushered in the Green Revolution, which transformed modern agriculture and prevented global famine.

Since then, the World Food Prize has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world. Laureates have been recognized from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Denmark, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Britain, the United Nations and the United States. (Xinhua-ANI)




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