Ohio State Professor Rattan Lal Aims to Eliminate Hunger While Helping the Environment

Nov. 30, 2023

Originally published in Columbus Monthly. Article available here.

By Randy Edwards

At a tender age, Rattan Lal learned harsh lessons about the value of land and the often-heartbreaking challenge of coaxing food from the soil. He was born in the Punjab region of British India, where his father, brother and uncle wrung subsistence from 9 acres of farmland, until Rattan was about 5. Then came Partition, the violent division of India at the end of British colonial rule. Lal’s family was among the millions forced from their homes. As Hindus, the Lals had to leave West Punjab, which became part of Muslim Pakistan. 

“We were nobody. We lived in refugee camps for two years. It was hard,” says the thin, soft-spoken man holding a shovel next to a cornfield in Columbus. 

Seven decades later, his reputation firmly established as one of the leading soil scientists in the world, professor Rattan Lal recounts his origin story in the factual, dispassionate voice of someone who has told it many times.

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