Monday, September 17, 2007

Tropical Agriculture Expert Donald Plucknett, 75

Read the obituary by Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb in The Washington Post, September 17, 2007.

"Donald L. Plucknett, 75, an expert in world food matters who in recent years was the president of his own agricultural research and development firm, died of leukemia Sept. 3 at Inova Fairfax Hospital....

"Dr. Plucknett, who had an extensive career in tropical agriculture, worked at the University of Hawaii for 20 years. He continued to gain recognition for his work with the U.S. Agency for International Development and as a senior adviser to the World Bank. He wrote or edited 20 books and more than 200 articles....

In Genebanks and the World's Food (1987), "Dr. Plucknett and his co-authors warned that the international decline of genetic diversity produces record harvests but creates crops that are delicate and defenseless against nature's threats.

They said that such events as the 1840s Irish potato famine and the 1980 Cuban boatlift -- which occurred soon after a fungus destroyed 90 percent of the tobacco crop in Cuba and left thousands unemployed -- might have been caused by nations' failures to cultivate enough plant varieties."

Dr Plucknett "was chief of soil and water management at the Technical Assistance Bureau from 1973 to 1976; deputy executive director of the Board for Food and Agricultural Development in 1978 and 1979; and chief of agriculture and rural development in the Asia Bureau in1979 and 1980."

He "joined the World Bank in 1980 and until 1983 served as senior science adviser to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, which aims to increase food production and reduce poverty in developing countries through scientific research and research-related activities."

I knew Don Plucknett, and saw his work at USAID and at the CGIAR. He was a good man and played an important role in international agricultural research for many years. He will be missed!

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