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IFA Science Awards Winner
06 Mar 2011

Roland Buresh

The laureate of the 2011 IFA Norman Borlaug Award for excellence in crop nutrition research is Dr. Roland Buresh of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines. Dr. Buresh is Principal Scientist at IRRI where he leads the Institute’s work on site-specificnutrient management (SSNM).

The award recognizes his work in transforming the scientific concept of SSNM to innovative knowledge transfer tools based on decision-support software, the Internet, mobile phones and field practices readily usable by rice growers. Such tools bring precision agriculture techniques to small- scale farmers in developing countries.

Dr. Buresh has been working on nutrient and crop management for the past 30 years. He joined IRRI in 2000 and has since been involved in work focusing on rice, such as sustainable management of intensive irrigated rice, crop residue management and management of rice-maize cropping systems. Through his involvement with the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC) – a partnership between IRRI, national research centres in ten Asian countries and the private sector, Dr. Buresh initiated the development of innovative knowledge transfer tools targeting specifically small-scale farmers in Asia and potentially in many more regions.

These tools include:

computer-based decision support software available to extension workers, crop advisors, and farmers through the internet and mobile phones; videos for farmers; and quick guides for fertilizer best management.
Dr. Buresh’s most recent and recognized accomplishment is ‘Nutrient Manager’, an IT-based decision- support tool that provides extension workers, farmers and researchers field-specific nutrient management practices for rice. Nutrient Manager can be adapted to the conditions of any country or region and requires little data input. Each country- or region-specific tool consists of ten to twenty questions that can be easily answered with no need for soil or plant analyses. Nutrient Manager for Rice has been tested and implemented successfully in the Philippines and in Indonesia by rice growers using local languages. Through an innovative public-private partnership in the Philippines, involving the Department of Agriculture and two national mobile phone service providers, Dr Buresh led the development of a mobile phone application of Nutrient Manager for Rice using interactive voice response (IVR). With this service, a rice farmer calls a toll-free number, answers questions by pushing the phone keypad as prompted by a voice recording, and then receives a text message with a fertilizer guideline customized for the farmer’s field and cultivation practices. Nutrient Manager is expected to be adopted by many more countries. Local versions for Bangladesh, China, India, Vietnam, and West Africa are under development.

Prior to joining IRRI, Dr. Buresh was Principal Soil Scientist at the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya and Soil Scientist at the International Fertilizer Development Centre (IFDC), where he led a collaborative project between IFDC and IRRI in the Philippines.

Dr. Buresh is the 20th recipient of the Award. He was nominated by Atlas Fertilizer Corporation in the Philippines, and has been selected by an independent jury among twelve high-level candidates from developed countries and international agricultural research and development centres. Dr. Buresh graduated from Louisiana State University in 1978 with a PhD in Marine Sciences. He also received an M.Sc. in Soil Science from North Dakota State University. Dr. Buresh has accepted the Award at the Opening Session of the IFA Annual Conference on Tuesday, 24 May in Montreal.