Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has honored S. K. De Datta of Blacksburg, associate provost for international affairs at Virginia Tech, with a Presidential Citation Award. The award recognizes De Datta's contributions towards eradicating hunger through improved agricultural productivity and food security, particularly for the production of rice.
De Datta received the award last month at the opening session of the 17th PhilRice National Research and Development Conference, an annual event attended by some 500 rice scientists, government officials, extension workers, growers, and other rice industry representatives. The Hon. Luis P. Lorenzo, Philippine secretary of agriculture, presented the award.
De Datta was the agronomist and principal scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines from 1964 to 1991 and headed the IRRI agronomy department from 1966 to 1989. From 1989 to 1991, he provided leadership in the Rainfed Lowland Rice Ecosystem programs at IRRI.
Since 1991, De Datta has served as director of Virginia Tech's Office of International Research and Development, which was expanded in 2003 to become the Office of International Research, Education, and Development. In this capacity, he has obtained approximately $57 million in funding for 14 projects. The Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program (IPMCRSP), a decade-long project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and host country institutions, is the largest.
He has also been associate dean for international agriculture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for 10 years and is a tenured professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences. He was named associate provost for international affairs in August 2003.
De Datta's research on rice has significantly changed the production of this important food crop, the staple of diets around the world. In an early project at IRRI, his team worked on the development of rice varieties and associated technologies that would produce high yields in Asia, where yields were then the lowest in the world. This work led to the development of the "miracle rice," named "IR8," in 1966.
He also worked to improve rice production methods, leading to the substitution of direct seeding of rice for the age-old transplanting method of rice propagation, an innovation that enabled rice farmers to produce three crops per year with less labor on fields that previously had only yielded one annual crop. Additionally, his contributions in weed and crop nutrient management practices have led to significant changes in farming in 55 rice-growing countries.
De Datta's work has been acknowledged as a significant factor in bringing about the "green revolution" caused by the introduction of improved farming methods in the developing world. He received the prestigious Borlaug Award from the vice president of India in December 1992 in recognition of his contributions.
He continued his involvement in improving crop production in the Philippines through the $19.4 million IPMCRSP project, which involves research on integrated pest management in rice-vegetable cropping systems throughout the developing world with the collaboration of governments in five regions and several other land-grant universities in the United States.
After completing his Ph.D. studies at the University of Hawaii on a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship, De Datta worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State University. He joined the two-year-old IRRI in 1964.
De Datta's book, Principles and Practices of Rice Production, is considered the definitive work on rice production. He has also written a handbook on rice weed control, six book chapters, six technical bulletins, and 351 journal articles. He has mentored 77 graduate students from 23 countries in soil science, agronomy, and weed science and has received numerous national and international awards from organizations in several countries as well as an outstanding alumnus award from the University of Hawaii. De Datta is a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, the Soil Science Society of America, and the Crop Science Society of America and is the only American recipient of international service awards from all three organizations.
Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech's eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top 30 research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.