S.K. De Datta of Blacksburg, associate vice president for International Affairs and director of the Office of International Research, Education, and Development at Virginia Tech, received two plaques of recognition in the Philippines for his contribution to agriculture in that country and to the Green Revolution in Asia in the 1960s.
One plaque was awarded by the University of the Philippines Los Baños College of Agriculture on May 20 and the other by the International Rice Research Institute on May 26. The award ceremonies were part of meetings held by two multi-million dollar global United States Agency for International Development-funded projects that De Datta manages on behalf of Virginia Tech: the Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program and the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program.
The 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 in 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 that occurred from the 1940s through the 1960s, when farmers used the discoveries of science, planting higher-yielding rice varieties to great success. In 1968, De Datta, then an agronomist at the 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 traditional rice and came to be known as Miracle Rice.
The introduction of IR8 and new management practices changed a hungry landscape to one of food self-sufficiency in Asia. It is difficult to overstate this achievement; 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,” said De Datta, “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 earned his bachelor of science in agriculture from Banaras Hindu University and his master’s degree in soil science and agricultural chemistry from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. After completing his Ph.D. studies at the University of Hawaii on a fellowship, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State University. He joined the two-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.