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Press Release
01 Nov 2022

Dr. Fang-jie Zhao, Dr. Xia Liang and Jean-Martial Johnson Announced as The Winners of IFA Science Awards 2022

Washington, D.C., USA, November 01, 2022

The International Fertilizer Association (IFA) today announced the winners of its IFA Science Awards for excellence in plant nutrition science and innovation for sustainable development.


The 2022 IFA Norman Borlaug Plant Nutrition Award recipient is Dr. Fang-jie Zhao, Professor at Nanjing Agricultural University, China, for his over 30 years of extensive research on crop productivity and quality, soil health and human nutrition.


The two recipients of the Emerging Scholar Award are Dr. Xia (Emma) Liang, Research Fellow at the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia and Jean-Martial Johnson, Agronomy Consultant at Africa Rice Center in Côte d'Ivoire

“Science is IFA’s foundation; it guides us in all that we do. Our two award categories give us the opportunity to recognize those who have already demonstrated an impressive portfolio of research achievements, along with those who show significant promise in their field. I congratulate our winners on their remarkable contributions to our industry, and wish them continued success in the future,”


Dr. Zhao’s research has focused on improving crop productivity and quality - through establishing the effects of sulphur fertilizers on the yield and quality of crops – which has contributed to both sulphur fertilizer use recommendations and improved benefits from its use. He has made noteworthy contributions to improving human nutrition and health through biofortification of essential micronutrients and minimizing accumulation of toxic trace elements in food crops.

His more recent focus is on safeguarding food from soil contamination – which is the understanding of how crops take up arsenic and cadmium from the soil – and developing practical solutions to reduce their uptake.

“It is a great honor for me to receive the IFA Norman Borlaug Plant Nutrition Award. I am delighted that my research over the last thirty years has contributed to several aspects of the new paradigm for responsible plant nutrition,”


Dr. Xia Liang’s research interests are assessing the nitrogen footprint across agricultural production, supply and consumption and advancing its proper management. Her “5 Ps” principles - Production, People, Planet, Policy and Partnerships - shapes guidelines for sustainable nitrogen management and allow multidimensional evaluation of nitrogen management, highlight specific areas for improvement, support the design of policies and direct future research.

“I am honored to receive this award to highlight the importance of sustainable nitrogen management. I am optimistic that my research on enhanced efficiency nitrogen will facilitate collective actions of producers, consumers, researchers and policy makers towards agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability, both regionally and globally.”


Jean-Martial Johnson’s work contributed to the development of innovation in soil properties and nutrients – including the digital map of Africa at 30 m spatial resolution; RiceAdvice - used by stakeholders addressing plant nutrition challenges in sub-Saharan Africa. His collection and analysis of rice plant and soil samples in major rice-growing environments - across 20 sub-Saharan Africa countries - resulted in the development of four large datasets consisting of soil fertility properties, macro- and micronutrients in straw and grain, yield gap, and nutrient omission trials.

“I am pleased and honored to receive this award, which spotlights a part of the admirable research and development achievements of the Sustainable Enhancement Productivity program at Africa Rice Center and its partners,”


From 1993 to 2010, as the IFA International Crop Nutrition Award, and since 2010 as the IFA Norman Borlaug Award, IFA has granted an award to a person whose research or extension work has led to significant advances in crop nutrition. In 2021, IFA updated its awards in recognition of the need to look at plant nutrition in a way that pursues multiple socioeconomic, environmental and health outcomes. The association also added the Emerging Scholar category.

About the International Fertilizer Association

The International Fertilizer Association (IFA) was founded in 1927 and is the only global fertilizer association, with some 400 members in 70 countries and a mission to promote the efficient and responsible production, distribution and use of plant nutrients. This mission plays a critical role in helping to feed the world sustainably. IFA represents providers of plant nutrition solutions. Members include fertilizer producers, traders and distributors, as well as their associations, service providers to the industry, research organizations, ag-tech startups and non-governmental organizations.
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Media Contact Sally Ekanayaka, Communications Manager,