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Daniel Hillel Wins World Food Prize for Irrigation Work

A researcher who helped make crops grow in dry areas has received this year's World Food Prize. Daniel Hillel was recognized for his work in developing what is called "micro-irrigation" or "drip irrigation." It has made farming possible in places where there is little rainfall.

Watering plants drop by drop has changed agriculture by reducing the amount of water needed to grow crops. Jan Hopmans, a researcher with the University of California at Davis, studies water-related issues in society. He says farmers now depend on drip irrigation in many areas, including vineyards in Spain, onion fields in Africa, and even farms in the United States. He says California grows about 50 percent of the fruits and vegetables for the continental United States. And, he adds, that is possible because of drip and micro-irrigation techniques.

The World Food Prize Foundation says Daniel Hillel was born in California at the beginning of the Great Depression. After his father died, his mother moved the family to Palestine, where her parents lived. The area eventually became part of the state of Israel.

Daniel Hillel got his start in dryland farming as a settler in Israel's Negev Desert in the 1950s. Desert farmers were not able to send water through irrigation canals to their crops, the way farmers have since ancient times. So Daniel Hillel and others used the drip method to give plants just enough of what they needed, right where they needed it. A plastic tube is often used send water right to the base of trees or other crops.The method worked so well that soon Daniel Hillel has traveling the world, showing others how to do it.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 23Oct2012)