Mahalingam Govindaraj Wins The Norman Borlaug Field Award

Asian Scientist Magazine (October 20, 2021)–Mahalingam Govindaraj, a senior scientist with HarvestPlus, a program of the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR), has been named the 10th recipient of the prestigious Norman E. Borlaug Award for his leadership in mainstreaming biofortified crops since 2011.

That Norman Borlaug Field Award is organized by the World Food Prize Foundation and endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation in the USA. Established ten years ago, the award recognizes exceptional researchers working in international agriculture and food production with a mission to eliminate global hunger and poverty. Govindaraj received the award on October 19 during a ceremony at the Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue 2022 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Govindaraj started his research on biofortified crops at the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India, where he evaluated the ability of crops to accumulate micronutrients.

In 2014, Govindaraj introduced Dhanashakti, a biofortified pearl millet rich in iron – essential micronutrients that are partly responsible for the formation and growth of red blood cells. This was shown in a independent clinical examination where iron deficient children who consumed Dhanashakti had higher red blood cells compared to those who ate non-biofortified pearl millet. In the same year, Govindaraj received the Resource Mobilizer Award, and in 2016 the Promising Young Scientist Award, both presented by ICRISAT.

Govindaraj’s research goes beyond simply turning pearl millet into nutrient-rich crops. For almost a decade after the first release of the Dhanashakti, he has developed many varieties of biofortified crops. One of Govindaraj’s milestones is the deployment of climate-resistant biofortified pearl millet in arid regions of India and Africa. The consumption of the bio-enriched pearl millet has improved the health of rural areas and small farmers in the region. Govindaraj’s active collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research also led to India becoming the first country in the world to commit to iron and zinc standards as core attributes in their national cultivar release policy.

Source: World Food Prize ; Image: Jorgina Tan/Asian Scientist Magazine

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