Mahalingam Govindaraj Wins The Norman Borlaug Field Award

The award recognizes scientific contributions of Govindaraj, an Indian scientist, in developing biofortified crops

Asian Scientist Magazine (Oct. 20, 2021)–Mahalingam Govindaraj, a senior scientist with the HarvestPlus, a program of Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR), has been named the 10th recipient of the esteemed Norman E. Borlaug Award for his leadership in mainstreaming biofortified crops since 2011.

The Norman Borlaug Field Award is organized by the World Food Prize Foundation and endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation in the United States. Established a decade ago, the award acknowledges exceptional researchers working in international agriculture and food production with a mission to eliminate global hunger and poverty. Govindaraj received the award on October 19, during a ceremony at the 2022 Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa.

Govindaraj started his research on biofortified crops at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India where he evaluated the crops’ ability to accumulate micronutrients. 

In 2014, Govindaraj introduced Dhanashakti, a biofortified pearl millet rich in iron – essential micronutrients partly responsible for the formation and growth of red blood cells. This was shown in an independent clinical study in which iron-deficient children who consumed Dhanashakti had higher red blood cells compared to those who ate non-biofortified pearl millet. In the same year, Govindaraj received the Resource Mobilizer Award, and in 2016 the Promising Young Scientist Award, both granted by ICRISAT.

Govindaraj’s research goes beyond just turning pearl millet into nutrition-packed crops. For almost a decade after the first release of Dhanashakti, he has developed many varieties of biofortified crops. One of Govindaraj’s milestones is the dissemination of climate-resilient biofortified pearl millet in dry regions of India and Africa. The consumption of the biofortified pearl millet has improved the health of rural communities and smallholder farmers in the region. Govindaraj’s active collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research also led to India becoming the first country in the world to commit to iron and zinc standards as core traits in their national cultivar release policy.

Source: World Food Prize ; Image: Jorgina Tan/Asian Scientist Magazine


Septia Nurmala is a recent graduate from Pharmacy Professional Degree program, Universitas Indonesia where she focused on how medicines are regulated. As a writer who covers just about anything—from molecular scale to population level, she hopes to showcase the human narratives driving scientific discoveries and increase accessibility.

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