Dr. Hillel has pioneered a method of bringing water to crops in arid and dry-land regions.
While leading nations of the world are engaged in conflicts over the entire range of physical resources, from rare earth minerals to oil, this week the U.S. recognised the importance of a resource that matters much more to the vast numbers of the poor the world over — water.
It was recognition of the importance of efficient water use in agricultural practices that undergirded the announcement of this year's winner of World Food Prize (WFP), Israeli scientist Daniel Hillel.
Dr. Hillel was given the prestigious award, established in 1987 by Nobel Peace Prize winner and Green Revolution champion Norman Borlaug, for pioneering a “radically innovative way of bringing water to crops in arid and dry-land regions.”
A selection committee of experts from around the world oversees the nomination and selection process, and is chaired by Indian agricultural scientist Professor M.S. Swaminathan, who was the first World Food Prize laureate.
Dr. Hillel will be formally presented with the $250,000 award in October in Des Moines, Iowa.
Dr. Hillel's path-breaking workcomprises a method known as micro-irrigation, which is said to maximise efficient water usage in agriculture. It does so via the application of water in small but continuous amounts directly to plant roots, dramatically cutting the amount of water needed to nourish crops, maintaining their consistent health and resulting in higher yields to feed more people, the WFP Foundation said.
This reflects a major shift from prevailing methods in many developing countries, where farmers typically apply large amounts of water in brief periodic episodes of flooding to saturate their fields, followed by longer periods of drying out the soil.
Dr. Hillel said: “The task of improving the sustainable management of the Earth's finite and vulnerable soil, water, and energy resources for the benefit of humanity while sustaining the natural biotic community and its overall environmental integrity is an ongoing and increasingly urgent challenge for our generation and for future generations.”