Peace, stability start in the soil

Republished from the Winter 2019–20 issue of CFAES’ Continuum magazine. Read the issue.

Even in the presence of royalty, the conversation was down to earth. And that was totally appropriate.

In a formal ceremony in April 2019 in Tokyo, CFAES soil scientist Rattan Lal received a 2019 Japan Prize, one of the most prestigious global awards in science and technology.

So goes soil health, so goes our health

Lal, who is Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science with CFAES’ School of Environment and Natural Resources, was honored for his pioneering studies of sustainable soil management, and specifically, for showing how treating the soil right can help solve two of the world’s biggest challenges: food security and the climate crisis.

“The health of soil, plants, animals, people, and the environment are interconnected,” Lal said in his comments at the ceremony.

Nearly a thousand dignitaries, including Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko and Ohio State President Michael V. Drake, attended the black-tie event.

Furthering peace and prosperity

Japan Prize officials said those chosen for the honor—two annually out of more than 15,000 nominees—have furthered the cause of peace and prosperity.

Lal, who earned his PhD from CFAES in 1968 and joined the faculty in 1987, has devoted his career to studying the soil, especially soils used for growing food.

He said he believes that soil has a right to be protected, restored, and managed with good judgment.

Growing CFAES’ carbon center

In 2000, Lal founded CFAES’ soil-focused Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, which he still directs, and to which he has donated the prize’s $450,000 honorarium.

Humanity’s well-being starts in the ground, Lal told the audience.

“The ferocious and intense fire that burns in the pit of an empty stomach, which is a serious threat to human peace and political stability, can only be extinguished by a loaf of bread made from grain grown on a healthy and fertile soil.”

Watch the Japan Prize ceremony in the video above. Lal receives the award at about the 3:30 mark. His comments start around 5:35.

Read CFAES’ press release about the award here.

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