June 21, 2006

Cornell alumnus Andrew Colin McClung reaps 2006 World Food Prize

For the sixth time in its 19-year history, the World Food Prize has been won by a Cornellian. He is Andrew Colin McClung, Cornell M.S. '49 and Ph.D. '50 in soil science, of King Ferry, N.Y. One of three 2006 recipients to share the $250,000 award, he was awarded the prize for helping to transform a large area in Brazil into fertile cropland.

The prize will be presented Oct. 19 in Des Moines, Iowa.

McClung, a retired agronomist from the IRI Research Institute, Rockefeller Foundation and Winrock International, was cited for his role in showing that the Cerrado -- a region of vast, once infertile land stretching across Brazil -- was severely depleted in nutrients and had aluminum toxicity. His recommendation in the 1950s to combine lime, micronutrients and traditional fertilizer has enabled the Cerrado to support such diverse crops as coffee, soybeans, citrus and corn. Since then, Brazilian farmers have boosted the production of soybeans 20-fold with the development of the Cerrado, adding $9 billion annually to the Brazilian economy.

"Dr. McClung's research permitted the opening of an area larger than the total cropland of the United States to intensive agricultural production," said W. Shaw Reid, Cornell professor emeritus of crops and soil sciences, "and it has stood the test of time."

Other Cornell World Food Prize winners include Pedro Sanchez '62, M.S. '64, Ph.D. '68, the 2002 World Food Prize laureate and director of tropical agriculture at the Earth Institute, Columbia University; Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Cornell's H.E. Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy and the 2001 laureate; the late John Niederhauser, Ph.D. '43, and the 1990 recipient; and the late Robert F. Chandler Jr., a Cornell professor of forest soils in the 1940s and the 1988 laureate. In addition, the first laureate in 1987, natural ecologist M.S. Swaminathan, was an A.D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell from 1989 to 1995.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman E. Borlaug, a father of the green revolution and a former A.D. White Professor, established the World Food Prize in 1986. While on campus last year, Borlaug said, "Cornell has played an outstanding role in international agricultural development in helping to alleviate world food problems."

Borlaug's only U.S. graduate student was Ronnie Coffman, now director of International Programs in Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.