Pam Ronald Wins Wolf Prize in Agriculture

Plant Geneticist Awarded for Work in Global Rice Sustainability

Ram Ronald leans against pillar decorated with ceramic art (plant design)
Wolf Prize recipient Pam Ronald outside Robbins Hall, leaning against pillar decorated with a ceramic mosaic mural. (Joel Mackendorf/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • 1st woman among 6 UC Davis scientists to receive the prize
  • Foundation honors “achievements in the interest of mankind”
  • New rice varieties can withstand flooding and produce more

UC Davis plant geneticist Pam Ronald has been named the recipient of the 2022 International Wolf Prize in Agriculture, given by the Jerusalem-based Wolf Foundation in recognition of her “pioneering work on disease resistance and environmental stress tolerance in rice.”

She is the first woman among six UC Davis scientists to receive the Wolf Prize in Agriculture. The foundation has been giving its $100,000 prizes in agriculture and other disciplines since 1978, honoring scientists and artists from around the world “for their achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations amongst peoples.” This year the foundation gave multiple prizes in chemistry, physics and architecture, and single awards in mathematics, music and agriculture.

Ronald is a distinguished professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, having joined the faculty in 1992, and is also affiliated with the UC Davis Genome Center and the Physical Biosciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The Wolf Foundation noted her work isolating a gene that allows rice to survive two weeks of flooding and increases yield by 60% compared to conventional varieties. “Her discoveries show an advanced understanding of fundamental biological processes and enhance sustainable agriculture and food security,” the foundation said in its announcement of her prize.

Flood-tolerant rice varieties are now grown by more than 6 million subsistence farmers in India and Bangladesh. The committee noted that those two countries lose more than 4 million tons of rice each year to flooding, enough to feed 30 million people.

Ronald founded the UC Davis Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy to provide the next generation of scientists with the training they need to become effective communicators. She and her husband, Raoul Adamchak, an organic farmer who retired in 2020 as the market garden coordinator for the UC Davis Student Farm, are the authors of Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food.

The Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations for Agricultural and Life Sciences named Ronald a World Agricultural Prize Laureate in 2020.

Others from UC Davis who received the Wolf Prize in Agriculture: Jorge Dubcovsky, a plant sciences distinguished professor (2014); Harris Lewin, an animal scientist and former vice chancellor of research (2011); Roger Beachy, a plant scientist and founding director of the World Food Center (2001); Gurdev Khush, a plant scientist and adjunct professor in the Department of Plant Sciences (2000); and Shang-Fa Yang (deceased), a plant scientist in the Department of Vegetable Crops (1991).

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