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Soil scientists from Brazil and Iran are among the winners of the 2004 TWAS Prizes, announced last month in Trieste, Italy.

The US$10,000 awards honour scientists from developing countries who have excelled in each of eight fields of research.

They are awarded annually by the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), which last week changed its name to the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (although keeping the same acronym).

Mohammed J. Malakouti — of the Tarbiat Modarres University in Tehran — won the prize for agricultural sciences for his research on fertilisers suited to the soil and crops of Iran. Malakouti's work addressed Iranian farmers' use of inappropriate fertilisers whose high phosphorous content was both wasteful and led to pollution.

By studying different Iranian soils, Malakouti identified a better fertiliser ratio of phosphorous to nitrogen and potassium. The result is that farming is more sustainable and yields are higher. Malakouti also helped establish a national network of 56 soil and plant laboratories.

Another soil researcher, Adolpho José Melfi of University of São Paulo, Brazil, won the TWAS Prize for earth sciences. His studies of tropical soil formation have led to applications in agriculture and addressing environmental problems. Melfi's research has been used not only in Brazil and neighbouring Latin American nations, but also in West Africa.

Among this year's other winners are Jorge Kalil from the University of São Paulo, Brazil (biology prize) and Miguel Angel Blesa from the National University of General San Martin, Argentina (chemistry prize).

Four prizes went to researchers in Asia; two of the winners were Aizhen Li of the Shanghai Institute of Microsystems and Technology in China for engineering sciences and her compatriot, Yiming Long, of the Nankai Institute of Mathematics for mathematics.

Shiv Kumar Sarin, a gastroenterologist at New Delhi's G.P. Pant Hospital, India collected the award for medical sciences and Spenta R. Wadia of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, also in India won the physics prize.

The prizes will be presented at the next TWAS general meeting, which takes place in Alexandria, Egypt, in November 2005.

For further information on the 2004 TWAS Prizes click here