"Man can and must prevent the tragedy of famine in the future instead of merely trying with pious regret to salvage the human wreckage of the famine, as he has so often done in the past."
Norman Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Acceptance Speech
City of Birth: Cresco, Iowa
Innovation: The Green Revolution via high yield, disease-resistant wheat and new farming practices
Idea: Borlaug was an agronomist, or agricultural scientist, who proved that high-yield farming could revolutionize food production. One of his greatest scientific achievements was the development of high-yield, disease resistant varieties of wheat—but that was just the beginning. Borlaug worked with governments in Latin America, South Asia and Africa to implement innovative farming practices, which allowed more people to grow more crops with more success.
Influence: In 1965 Mexican farmers began to implement Borlaug's farming methods to great success. He was then invited to India, during the height of a major famine. Prior to Borlaug's innovation, it was considered unimaginable that the subcontinent could feed itself. By 1968, Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat production, as was India by the early ’70s. After Borlaug's advances in wheat, high-yield rice strains were developed employing a similar strategy—and Asia’s Green Revolution was under way
Borlaug's work sparked a rapid expansion of agricultural capabilities in the developing world. He changed the world's perception of what was possible for farmer, and what agriculture was capable of. Estimates of how many lives have been saved due to the increased food production he pioneered range from millions to billions. As agricultural researchers today focus on how to spark the next Green Revolution, Borlaug's combination of research, practice and training continue to guide the way forward.