Philippines honors De Datta for agriculture role

Dr. S.K. De Datta

Dr. S.K. De Datta

S.K. De Datta, administrative principal investigator for SANREM CRSP, has been recognized in the Philippines for his contribution to agriculture in that country and to the Green Revolution in Asia in the 1960s. The College of Agriculture at University of the Philippines-Los Baños recognized De Datta at a ceremony on May 20, and the International Rice Research Institute honored him on May 26.

The ceremonies were part of the annual meetings of SANREM and the Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program (IPM CRSP), both of which De Datta manages at Virginia Tech, where he is associate vice president for international affairs and director of the Office of International Research, Education, and Development. Both awards recognized De Datta’s contributions to Philippine agriculture and his 27 years of research and education, which includes overseeing 77 master’s and Ph.D. students from 22 countries at the International Rice Research Institute. They also recognized his contributions as affiliate professor in the soil science and agronomy departments at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños; his wide-ranging research in agronomy, soil science, weed science, and other aspects of rice production; his major contributions to the Green Revolution; and his leadership role in advancing agricultural productivity for poor farmers in Asia.

The term “Green Revolution” refers to the transformation of agriculture from the 1940s through the 1960s, when farmers used scientific discoveries to plant higher-yielding rice varieties with great success. In 1968, De Datta, then an agronomist at the rice institute, published his findings about IR8, a variety of rice that yielded 5 tons of rice per hectare with almost no fertilizer and 9.4 tons per hectare with fertilizer. This was nearly 10 times the yield of conventional grain and came to be known as Miracle Rice. The introduction of IR8 and new management practices were significant achievements, for rice sustains about 3.5 billion people either partially or fully for caloric intake around the world, mostly in Asia.

“I am humbled by receiving these awards,” De Datta said, “and I am reminded that now more than ever, in light of the global food crisis, we need to continue to support agricultural and natural resource management research to ensure food security and reduce poverty.”

De Datta holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Banaras Hindu University in India and a master’s degree in soil science and agricultural chemistry from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. After completing Ph.D. studies at the University of Hawaii on a fellowship, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State University. He joined the 2-year-old International Rice Research Institute in 1964. De Datta’s book, Principles and Practices of Rice Production, is considered the definitive work on rice cultivation. He has also written a handbook on rice weed control, six book chapters, six technical bulletins, and 351 journal articles. He has received numerous other awards from organizations in several countries as well as a Presidential Citation Award from the Philippine head of state in 2004 and an outstanding alumnus award from the University of Hawaii.