The National Academy of Sciences has awarded David Lobell the 2022 NAS Prize in Food & Agriculture Sciences for his groundbreaking research on the effects of climate variability and change on global crop productivity. A professor of Earth system science at Stanford University, Lobell also collaborates on a Peanut Innovation Lab project in Malawi.
The NAS Prize, endowed by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is awarded each year to US scientist making an extraordinary contribution to agriculture or to the understanding of the biology of a species fundamentally important to agriculture or food production. The prize comes with a medal and $100,000.
Lobell’s innovative use of remote sensing, statistics, ecosystem modeling and agronomy addresses challenges at the nexus of agriculture, food security and the environment. His work shows that investments in agriculture are one of the most cost-effective ways of limiting climate change.
The Lobell Lab at Stanford has accomplished numerous recent breakthroughs, demonstrating that in many agricultural systems, climate change is already affecting productivity. His team used new empirical approaches to show the importance of heat to major agricultural crops, including the impact of short periods of very high temperatures. By developing improved methods to use satellite data to measure agricultural productivity and management practices, he furthered scientific understanding of how specific interventions can improve productivity.
With the Peanut Innovation Lab, Lobell works with North Carolina State University’s Rick Brandenburg on the Satellite Image Analysis for Peanut project, which is evaluating how satellite images could be used to predict crop performance. By comparing GPS field coordinates, yield and crop quality data from several hundred smallholder farms against satellite images, the Stanford team may begin to estimate how a crop responds to certain conditions or interventions.