Vethaiya T. Balasubramanian (Bala)
Dr. Vethaiya T. Balasubramanian (Bala) was chosen by a distinguished panel of experts to receive the IFA International Award for work that improves fertilizer use efficiency, has positive environmental impacts and has been successfully communicated to farmers in developing countries.
Bala's 32-year career has been dedicated to tropical agricultural research and development in Africa and Asia, as demonstrated by his long-term involvement with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and World Bank programmes and projects.
Among the key accomplishments that earned him the Award, Bala is well known for developing and promoting the leaf color chart (LCC), from a Japanese prototype, for crop need-based nitrogen (N) management in rice. The LCC is a simple, easy-to-use and inexpensive tool that helps farmers determine the best time for N top-dressing in rice crops. Integrated use of this simple tool along with optimum plant population and crop management have reduced the cost and increased profit to farmers and at the same time lessened the risk of fertilizers polluting water sources in farming areas and beyond.
With savings in N fertilizer, farmers are encouraged to apply more phosphate and potassium to ensure balanced fertilizer use.
Hailing from a farming family in the small village of Voimedu in Tamil Nadu, India, Bala earned a B.Sc. in agriculture (1964) and an M.Sc. in soil science and agricultural chemistry (1966) from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, India. He earned a Ph.D. in agronomy and soil science (1974) from the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, USA. He is a member of various professional societies: Sigma Xi, Indian Society of Soil Science, International Society of Agricultural Resource Management, American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), and the International Union of Soil Sciences. In 2002, he accepted serving on the SSSA Book Series Committee.