Edson Lobato, Alysson Paolinelli, Dr. A. Colin McClung
The 2006 World Food Prize Laureates - Mr. Edson Lobato of Brazil, H.E. Alysson Paolinelli of Brazil, and Dr. A. Colin McClung of the United States - each played a vital role in transforming the Cerrado - a region of vast, once infertile tropical high plains stretching across Brazil - into highly productive cropland.
Dr. A. Colin McClung
Mr. Lobato and Minister Paolinelli represented the first World Food Prize Laureates from Brazil, while Dr. McClung was the eleventh Laureate from the United States.
Dr. A. Colin McClung
From only 200,000 hectares of arable land in 1955, the Cerrado
had well over 40 million hectares in cultivation by the year 2005.
The phenomenal achievement of transforming the infertile Cerrado region into highly productive land over a span of fifty years, the world's single largest increase in farmland since the settlement of the U.S. Midwest, has been hailed as a far-reaching milestone in agricultural science.
Andrew Colin McClung began his career as an agronomy researcher at North Carolina State College in 1950 after earning degrees in agricultural science (West Virginia University, B.A., 1947) and soil science (M.S. 1949 and Ph.D. 1950, Cornell University).
In 1956, McClung joined the David and Nelson Rockefeller-funded International Basic Economic Corporation Research Institute (later known as the IRI Research Institute), which sought to improve soil conditions for coffee production and thus bolster the Brazilian economy.
As part of this project, McClung
initiated research on the soil degradation plaguing central Brazil, including the 300 million-acre wasteland known as the Cerrado
to have potential as "a world leader in agriculture.
However, until his
discovery of the proper application of lime and fertilizers to make its soils productive, the infertile Cerrado had been of little interest to Brazilian farmers, agribusinesses, or government officials.
McClung's studies showed that acidity, toxic levels of aluminum, and deficiencies of several micronutrients in the soil limited plant growth.
Given this analysis, he
tested the potential of dolomitic lime to eliminate the aluminum toxicity of the soils, supply calcium and magnesium, and modify the availability of other nutrients.
Within a year, McClung's
laboratory, greenhouse, and field tests showed unprecedented promise for this treatment to support high corn, soy, and cotton yields on Cerrado soils - 200 to 300 percent higher than yields from unimproved soils.
groundbreaking results were presented at a meeting of the Brazilian Soil Science Society
research did away with the myth that the Cerrado
was not suitable for intensive agriculture and set off a chain reaction of technical studies that increased food production and fueled substantial economic and social development in Brazil
and other tropical countries.
research permitted the opening of an area larger than the total cropland of the United States to intensive agricultural production," said Professor W. Shaw Reid of Cornell University
, "and it has stood the test of time."