Select Page
IFA Science Awards Winner
06 Mar 2005

Ismail Çakmak

In recognition of his achievements and distinguished career, the 2005 IFA International Crop Nutrition Award was bestowed upon Dr. Ismail, Full Professor at Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey.

When Dr. Çakmak undertook research in the early 1990s on the underlying causes of poor growth and leaf symptoms demonstrated by wheat crops in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey, there was little understanding of the importance of zinc for healthy wheat crops. Dr. Çakmak led a long-term, multi-institutional project - which quickly gained funding under the NATO-Science for Stability Program - to investigate this crop failure. In field experiments in Anatolia, applying zinc to wheat doubled or even tripled the grain's zinc content.The NATO Project was jointly undertaken by Cukurova University, the National Research Institutions of the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture (e.g., Eskisehir-Transitional Zone Agricultural Research Institute and Konya- Bahri Dagdas International Agricultural Research Center) and CIMMYT-Ankara under Prof. Cakmak’s guidance. At that time, Prof. Çakmak was a faculty member at Cukurova University in Adana.

Dr. Çakmak also demonstrated the effectiveness of zinc fertilization for addressing a deficiency experienced by a large number of Turks, especially in rural areas. The Anatolia initiative is one of the world's first examples of using agricultural practices to address public health problems as well as improved crop production, and its success provides a model for countless other nations. More soils throughout the world lack zinc than any other micronutrient. About 50 per cent of the world population suffers from iron and zinc deficiencies, which can be addressed through this cost-effective method.

The results of this project were rapidly and effectively communicated to key audiences. The Turkish fertilizer industry, led by Toros Fertilizer, quickly responded with adapted products. Farmers have overwhelmingly shown their approval of zinc-fortified fertilizers: demand grew from zero to 300,000 tonnes per year in just one decade. The government made fertilizers containing zinc eligible for state subsidies in 1997.

By improving overall plant health and nutrient use efficiency, zinc fertilization also has a positive impact on the environment.

The excellence of Dr. Çakmak's work has been recognized by a number of prestigious bodies, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) and many others. He was recently elected to the Board of Trustees of CIMMYT. He serves on the editorial board of several scientific publications, including the European Journal of Agronomy, Plant and Soil and the Journal of Trace Elements in Biology and Medicine.

Dr. Çakmak was nominated for this honour by IFA member Toros Fertilizer and Chemical Industry Co. Inc.