Category Archives: Laudatio

Laudatio Prof. D’Hoore

Ik spreek hier als bodemkundig kleinkind van Prof. D’Hoore, want ik heb niet alleen het geluk gehad zijn boeiende colleges te mogen volgen, de laatste 20 jaar heb ik het vaandel van ‘Bodemgeografie van de wereld’ mogen dragen aan de Faculteit Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen aan de KU Leuven.

Ik was altijd bijzonder geïnspireerd door de lessen van Jules D’Hoore, en het is mede door zijn aanstekelijk enthousiasme dat ik onmiddellijk na mijn studies naar Afrika vertrokken ben om er bodemonderzoek te gaan doen in projecten van de FAO ( de Wereldvoedsel organisatie van de Verenigde Naties). In Afrika heb ik dan ook de context leren appreciëren van het gigantische levenswerk van Jules, de ‘Bodemkaart van Afrika’. Omwille van de politieke omwentelingen in Congo in de jaren zestig is er helaas veel van het bodem archief verloren gegaan op het Ineac (Institut national pour l’étude agronomique du Congo Belge), de werkplek van Jules D’Hoore. Dank zij zijn bijzondere veerkracht en zijn grondige dossierkennis is hij er toch in geslaagd zijn bodemkaart, de eerste algehele bodemkaart van Afrika, af te werken. Ik kan ervan getuigen dat deze bodemkaart een belangrijke mijlpaal is geweest in de Bodemkunde, die ook vandaag en nog overal in de wereld, maar in het bijzonder in Afrika bijzonder geapprecieerd wordt. De legende ervan werd door vele collega’s zelfs gebruikt als bodemclassificatiesysteem bij de bodemkartering.

Het is dus niet te verwonderen dat, toen we einde 2015 het internationaal Jaar van de Bodem afsloten met de tentoonstelling ‘Africa in Profile’ tentoonstelling, de bodemkaart van Afrika van Jules D’Hoore centraal en in de kijker stond. Ik heb toen Prof. D’Hoore zelf mogen rondleiden doorheen de ‘Africa in Profile’ tentoonstelling, en toen we aan het hoofdstuk Plinthosols kwamen, keerden onze rollen terug om. Jules vertelde als bevlogen Prof zijn verhaal van de niet vergevende ijzerhoudende bodems (Plinthosols) van Afrika en ik voelde terug de kleine student van vroeger…

Graag wil ik terloops vermelden dat deze tentoonstelling over de bodems van Afrika nu ook virtueel kan bezocht worden via de website van het Departement Aard en Omgevingswetenschappen van de KU Leuven door er “Virtual tour through the ‘Africa in Profile’ exhibition” aan te klikken.

Seppe Deckers

Prof. D'Hoore

Obituary for Otto Spaargaren by Seppe Deckers

ottopellenberg

Otto Spaargaren passed away at Bennekom on March 13th 2015 at the age of 71.

Everybody will remember Otto as the winner of the third IUSS Guy Smith Award with which the IUSS community recognized him for his major contributions to international soil classification and correlation with special reference to the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB).

Otto started his professional career as Educational Officer at the International Soil Museum (now ISRIC – World Soil Information), Wageningen from where he undertook numerous soils projects all over the world: soil survey for rice production in the Niger Delta in Nigeria; soil survey for the Mahaweli Development Project in Eastern Sri Lanka; feasibility for irrigation in Western Nepal. Otto also spent numerous years overseas in various projects such as the Soil Survey of Zambia and Coordinating the African Acid Soils Network of the International Board for Soil Research and Management (IBSRAM). Otto spearheaded under FAO the first classification system for top soils in the world and was involved in the work on Land Quality Indicators (LQI) under the authority from the World Bank.

From 2006 to 2010 he was the Chair of the IUSS Working Group WRB and from its foundation till 2006 he served as Vice-Chair and Secretary of the Working Group.

Otto was a soil classifier in heart and soul. His contribution to international soil classification may be defined as designing and checking its architecture (and controlling its rules). The other dimension in Otto’s approach was harmony both within one system and among systems. In Otto’s world of soil classification, WRB has its unique place which he iconized as “umbrella between equally worthy national soil classification systems”. With his concern to come to harmonization with Soil Taxonomy, Otto made numerous moves with the definitions of the diagnostics in WRB, so as to bring WRB and Soil Taxonomy closer to each other.

Otto’s enthusiasm for soilscapes has inspired many young soil scientists. He really was a master in animating the discussions in the profile pits and then bringing the floating ideas towards a consensus by projecting them on his vast field experience. Not only that, during numerous field excursions in the margin of international soil congresses, Otto would sneak out to collect numerous soil monoliths which are now on display in the soil museum at ISRIC and at the places of origin. In the quietness of the magnificently refurbished International Soil Museum at ISRIC, Wageningen, The Netherlands, Otto Spaargaren will always remain present through the numerous soil monoliths which will continue inspiring people from around the world in eternity.

Jozef (Seppe) Deckers, KU Leuven

Belgium

Last honours to Raoul Dudal

Raoul (Rudi) Dudal (Brugge, May 1, 1926 – Borchtlombeek, January 23, 2014)

On 23rd January 2014 Rudi Dudal passed away at Borchtlombeek, surrounded by his family. Rudi Dudal was born on May 1, 1926 in Brugge, Belgium.

Professional assignments

After his M.Sc. as agricultural engineer at KU Leuven University(Belgium) in 1949, Rudi stepped in a PhD programme at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences where he was the first student to graduate in 1955. He was active as head of a mapping team of the Belgian Soil Survey Centre in Leuven. In 1955 he started his international career in FAO as Technical Assistant on Soil Resources Appraisal in Indonesia, where he also served as Professor in Soil Science in the faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Indonesia from 1958 – 1959. From 1960 – 1969 he was the General Correlator of the FAO/Unesco Soil Map of the World. These were times of cold war and as our Russian colleagues from the Dokuchaev Soil Science Society remarked, this was Glasnost ‘avant la-lettre!’. From 1970 – 1975 Rudi was Chief of the Soil Resources Development and Conservation Service of FAO. From 1976 till 1984 he was Director of the Land and Water Development Division in FAO. In 1984 he joined KU Leuven as full professor in Soil Geography, Soils of the Tropics and Land Evaluation at the Faculty of Agricultural and Applied Biological Sciences.

Rudi Dudal in Indonesia in the 1950’s, photo: courtesy F. Dudal
Rudi Dudal in Indonesia in the 1950’s, photo: courtesy F. Dudal

Internationally Rudi Dudal has taken on board numerous scientific assignments, the most important are :

  • Chairman of the Commission on Soil Classification and Survey of the International Soil Science Society (ISSS; 1968 – 1974);
  • Secretary-General of the International Soil Science Society (ISSS; 1974 – 1978); Chairman, FAO Inter-Departmental Working Group on Environment and Energy (1980 – 1983);
  • Secretary of the Working Group on the International Reference Base for Soil Classification (ISSS; 1986 – 1992);
  • Secretary of the Working Group on Soils and Geomedicine (ISSS; 1986 – 1994).

Rudi has also been very active in transdisciplinary scientific committees such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) where he served as a member of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) from 1988 – 1993 and as a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) from 1995 – 2001. He launched the concept of Mega-Environments, kind of an agro-ecological zoning, to encourage scientists to target their research so small local farmers would reap more benefits.

Rudy Dudal (second from the left) in Katanga, Congo on a soil corerelation tour with R. Tavernier (first left) , J. Croegaert (third from the left) and C. Sys (fourth from the left), photo: courtesy E. Van Ranst
Rudy Dudal (second from the left) in Katanga, Congo on a soil corerelation tour with R. Tavernier
(first left) , J. Croegaert (third from the left) and C. Sys (fourth from the left), photo: courtesy E. Van Ranst

Rudy Dudal (second from the left) in Katanga, Congo on a soil corerelation tour with R. Tavernier
(first left) , J. Croegaert (third from the left) and C. Sys (fourth from the left), photo: courtesy E. Van Ranst

Rudi was awarded numerous honorary degrees:

  • the degree of Doctor h.c. of Agricultural Sciences at the Rijksuniversiteit Gent,Belgium in 1976;
  • Doctor of Science h.c. at the Cranfield University, U.K. in 1979
  • Doctor of Laws h.c. at the University of Aberdeen, U.K in 1981.

Rudi’s high scientific profile was marked by Honorary Awards and memberships:

  • Member of the Royal Academy of Overseas Science, (Belgium, 1979)
  • Corresponding Member of the Deutsche Bodenkundliche Gesellschaft (Germany, 1980)
  • Honorary Award of the Soil Conservation Society of America(U.S.A., 1981)
  • Membre d’honneur, Association francaise pour l’Etude du Sol, (France, 1982)
  • Honorary Member, American Soil Science Society, (U.S.A., 1985)
  • Member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters, (Norway, 1989)

Last but not least, Rudi was the first soil scientist to receive the Guy Smith Medal Award 2010 , which was handed over to him by Prof. Karl Star, Chair of IUSS Division of Soil ins Space and Time at the Royal Academy for Science and Arts at Brussels on 22/02/2011.

Gerald Dudal (right) congratulating his father Rudi Dudal (left) for his Guy Smith Medal award, Brussels, Royal Academy for Science and Arts of Belgium, 22/02/2011, photo: S. Deckers
Gerald Dudal (right) congratulating his father Rudi Dudal (left) for his Guy Smith Medal award, Brussels, Royal Academy for Science and Arts of Belgium, 22/02/2011, photo: S. Deckers

Rudy was member of the soil science societies of Belgium, Germany, USA, France, Norway, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, ISRIC and the IUSS.

Rudi’s contributions to soil classification: By developing the Legend of the FAO/Unesco Soil Map of the World, Rudi made a major contribution towards harmonizing existing national soil classification systems. Thanks to his good personal relations at the time with Guy Smith from USDA, Rudi took the fortunate decision to adopt the concept of diagnostic horizons, properties and materials and implemented it at World scale in the FAO Legend of the Soil Map of the World. This was so successful that afterwards many countries used the Legend of the Soil Map of the World not only for soil mapping but also as a system for soil classification.

When in 1980 FAO and UNEP took the initiative of the International Reference base for Soil Classification (IRB), Rudi was there to steer the initiative and became secretary as of 1986 through to 1992. During the famous meeting of IRB at Montpellier in 1992, Rudi has played a key role in aligning the IRB with the revised legend of the FAO Soil map of the World. As such the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB) was born and could count on the full support from FAO and other organizations of the United Nations. In 1998, during the World Congress of Soil Science at Montpellier, the IUSS adopted WRB as its system for soil correlation and classification. Rudi continued to play an important role by supporting harmonization in soil classification, particularly in the translation of the soil map of Belgium to WRB. With his phenomenal background rooting back to his time as a Belgian soil surveyor and all what followed during his career as prominent soil scientist, we have been very happy and proud to have had Rudi on this team.
Till very recent, Rudi was still keeping in close touch with the scholars in soil science at the Geo-Institute of the KU Leuven, stirring up the scientific debate on major world issues such as carbon cycles and soil evolution under the global change scenario. He loved socializing and discussing the most different themes. While tearing off the label of a water bottle, he would read out its mineral composition and then the latest nitrate regulations for Flanders groundwater would pass the review. Another of your favorite topics was climate change, long before Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was shown in the cinemas. And to our big surprise he not only told us the history of the carillon of Leuven town but even the music played on it every hour!
Through his kindness and enthusiasm he managed to endear so many people all over the world with whom he remained connected long before internet and social media were in place. This vast social capital in combination with his wisdom and vision made him a real leader.
When the sad news of Rudi Dudal’s passing away circulated a tsunami of emotional reactions came flooding in. “Rudi was a giant; we shall remember him fondly as a friend, colleague and polymath, stalwart to the end (David Dent), the scientist with the greatest sense of humour (Freddy Nachtergaele). We shall miss his counsel greatly (David Dent).
Indeed, we are very sad with Rudi’s departure, but we are also very grateful that our paths have crossed Rudi’s and we could travel together his life journey for so long. Dick Arnold from the United States put it like this: ‘Rudi will be missed but more importantly he will be remembered for his ideas and his determination to get soil scientists around the world to work more closely together’.

Jozef (Seppe) Deckers
Geo-Institute
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Celestijnenlaan 200 E
3001 Heverlee
Seppe.deckers@ees.kuleuven.be

Laudation for Dr. Hari Eswaran

Soil Classification Congress

Lincoln Nebraska, USA

June 2012

Prof. Karl Stahr handing over the 2012 Guy Smith award
Prof. Karl Stahr handing over the 2012 Guy Smith award

Distinguished delegates, Mr. President of the IUSS, Mr. Chairman of the IUSS Division of Soil in Space and Time, it is a real honor for me to provide this laudation
for Dr. Hari Eswaran at the occasion of the handing over of the second Guy Smith medal for soil classification.

I’m happy to point out at this junction that we have a special guest of Honor with us, Mrs Amy Smith, the granddaughter of Guy Smith who brings some good memories of her grandfather.

 

Amy Smith, Grand-daughter of Guy Smith addressing the audience
Amy Smith, Grand-daughter of Guy Smith addressing the audience

Let me start by providing some background on Hari’s Eswaran’s personal history and professional career. He was born on January 28, 1941 in Kluang, Johore, Malaysia.
He obtained his M.Sc in Soil Survey in 1967 at the University of Ghent, Belgium where he also graduated with a PhD in 1970 under the guidance of the renown Prof. Dr. R. Tavernier,
a personal friend of Guy Smith. Hari stayed on in Belgium at the International Training Centre (ICT-Ghent) as lecturer and scientific collaborator till 1976.

In the early eighties Hari Eswaran went to Honolulu at the University of Hawai for leading an USAID project on Soil Management Support Services (SMSS). The idea of the SMMS
project was to provide assistance to developing countries to come to grips with Soil Taxonomy for mapping and classifying soils. Within this programme Hari reached many young
soil scientists from all over the world during the field training sessions. Some 90 countries benefitted from this project. 12 international committees INCOMOX, INCOMANTH, etc.,
were established bringing some 1200 soils scientists under one roof, reflecting on soil genesis and classification. The project received honors and awards from different countries
(Van Ranst, 2011).

In 1986 Hari was elected Vice-Chairman of Commission V of the ISSS and in that capacity he shaped the Benchmark Soils Project.

As of 1989 till 2009 Hari was the National Leader of the World Soil Resources Centre of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. He developed a program and coordinated activities
of international technical exchange and assistance in areas of soil resource assessment, monitoring and management (Van Ranst, 2011). The result of this work culminated in the production
of the 1:30 million map of the ‘Soil Regions of the World’. He also developed a global soil database which has been used world-wide for assessing soil qualities and impact of land degradation.
Last but not least he was one of the fore-runners in designing ‘Sustainable agriculture’ by soil type and spearheaded studies on ‘Global change and desertification’.

Hari has published numerous scientific journal papers, served as reviewer of some 7 SCI journals. Among the many symposia Hari organized, the one of 2003 at Charlotte-USA during
the Annual meeting of the American Soil Science Society meeting was particularly important in view of its contribution to international soil correlation. It was published as a book:
‘Soil Classification, A global Desk Reference’ by the CRC Press.

 

Lucia Anjos, presenting the laudation for Hari Eswaran
Lucia Anjos, presenting the laudation for Hari Eswaran

Let me now further elaborate upon Hari’s major contributions to soil classification.

Prof. Van Ranst (2011) wrote:

Dr. Eswaran’s greatest contribution has been the improvement, understanding, and use of ‘Soil Taxonomy’ globally. He led the creation of several
international committees (e.g. ICOMOX, ICOMID, ICOMAND,…), open-ended groups that brought the world’s leading soil experts together to improve aspects of Soil Taxonomy.
Under his leadership, these committees provided recommendations that led to a series of universally accepted updates, including the establishment of two new orders, the Andisols and
Gelisols, and the publication of periodic issues of ‘Keys to Soil Taxonomy’
.

As ex-chairman of the IUSS World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB) working Group I have witnessed Hari’s true love for soils. He joined us wherever WRB would take him,
China, Vietnam, Italy, Germany etc… In the profile pit he is a master to open the pit like a book, meticulously unfolding its pages and explaining its true content to all young
scientists clustering around him. Thanks to Hari the WRB working group developed a rationale for the WRB system, and in doing so we realised that a simple system of two categorical
levels with great flexibility of the qualifiers would make an easy, useful and true classification system ready for international soil correlation and mapping. He also favoured
congruence between Soil Taxonomy and WRB so as to improve the scope for international soil correlation.

Upon the launching of the call for the second Guy Smith Prize, the selection committee received numerous nominations. After a thorough scrutiny of the submissions by the Guy Smith
Committee, Dr. Hary Eswaran came out as the strongest candidate. Incidentally, Hary Eswaran is stepping in the shoes of the great Rudi Dudal who was awarded the previous Guy Smith Prize.
Incidentally, Hari supported Rudi Dudal in bridging different soil classification systems in the implementation of the Soil Map of the World.

May I now request Prof. Karl Star Chair of IUSS Division of Soil in Space and Time, to hand over the Guy Smith prize to Hari Eswaranl.

 

Jozef (Seppe) Deckers
Secretary-General, Soil Science Society of Belgium
Chair, IUSS Guy Smith Prize Selection Comittee
KU Leuven University
Belgium

Prof. Lúcia Helena C. Anjos
Soils Department, Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ)
Seropédica, Rio de Janeiro 

Prof. Maria Gerasimova
Department of Soil Geography and Landscape Geochemistry
Faculty of Geography Moscow Lomonosov State University
Moscow, Russia

Acknowledgement: for this laudation I gratefully used factual information on Hari Eswaran drawn from the article in PEDON No 22, January 2011 (Newsletter of ICT-Ghent, Belgium)
with kind permission of its author Prof. Dr. Eric Van Ranst

By Prof. Jozef (Seppe) Deckers, Chair of the Selection Committee of the IUSS Guy Smith Award

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Emeritus Professor Carolus (Karel) SYS (1923 – 2009)

Secretary General of the Belgian Soil Science Society (1968-1981)

Dr. ir. Carolus, emeritus professor of Soil Science in the Faculty of Sciences, Ghent University, passed away on October 1, 2009 at the age of 85.
He was born in Zande (West-Flanders, Belgium) on Christmas-day, December 25, 1923.

Being son of a farmer, his parents certainly not directed him towards university studies. Instead they depicted for him a career as a cattle tradesman.
However, when during World War II, young men were summoned to work for the war industries, he decided not to go that way but to enroll at the Agricultural University in Ghent,
where he obtained the degree of agricultural engineer, tropical soil science, in 1949.

In the same year ir. C. Sys was selected by the Belgian administration for a job in the former Belgian Congo. He began working as a field soil surveyer at INEAC
(Institut National pour l’Etude Agronomique au Congo Belge), pioneering the soils of the central part of Africa. He participated in regional soil surveys in different
parts of the former Belgian Congo and in Burundi.

In 1956, he was appointed as Chef du Groupe Cartographie et Prospection de la Division d’Agrologie of this institute, in charge of the supervision and co-ordination
of the soil survey. In this function, he together with his collaborators, elaborated the INEAC system of soil classification for Central Africa.

Under the leadership of Sys, much emphasis was laid by the Belgian soil scientists on characteristics easily recognizable in the field, such as the presence of pseudosands
in the poor Ferralsols and the presence of shiny clay skins in the much richer Ferrisols. Many of these criteria were later taken over in the international classification
systems, such as Soil Taxonomy or the FAO legend. At that time, Sys was also a member of the committee in charge of the establishment of a Soil Map of Africa, and he
compiled the first soil map of Congo and Ruanda-Urundi at scale 1:5M.

In 1960, Sys returned back to Belgium and worked for three years, until 1963, as chief cartographer at the Belgian Centre for Soil Survey and as researcher in the
Laboratory of Physical Geography and Regional Pedology under the direction of Professor René Tavernier. At the same time, he supervised soil survey work and was
in charge of the study of the soil suitability for crop growing in Belgium. Ir. Sys was awarded a Ph.D. in Agronomy in 1961 at the Agricultural University of Ghent on the
thesis ‘Soil Genesis in the High-Katanga’.

In 1963, Dr. ir. C. Sys, was appointed associate professor, and in 1981 full professor at the State University Ghent, teaching regional pedology (mainly of tropical
and subtropical regions) and land evaluation at the Faculty of Sciences (International Training Centre for Post-Graduate Soil Scientists, ITC-Ghent) and at the Faculty of
Agricultural Sciences. In this function he was responsible for the scientific education of numerous pedologists from developing countries as well as from developed countries
all over the world. Initially his research was oriented to the study of soil-forming processes of tropical and arid soils, but since the 1970s his interest shifted mainly to
land evaluation. His green books on ‘Land Evaluation’ published by the former General Administration for Development Cooperation in Brussels are well-known and are still
used and cited by scientists. Around that time, Professor Sys’s career took an international course and his reputation as a leading and influential soil scientist grew
through this period. Since 1963, he was consultant or scientific supervisor of many overseas projects for the Belgian Administration for Development Co-operation,
the Flemish Interuniversity Council, the FAO and for many other Belgian and international organizations and consultant bureaus.

In Africa, he realized soil survey and land evaluation projects in Morocco, Egypt, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Chad, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Democratic
Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia.

In Nicaragua, he planned and supervised the soil survey of the Costa Atlàntica between the Rio Grande de Matagalpa and the Rio Escondido. In Asia he participated in soil
research and soil survey work in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and China.

From 1968 until 1981 Professor Sys was Secretary General of the Belgian Soil Science Society and editor-in-chief of ‘Pedologie’, the journal of the Belgian Soil Science
Society. His wide-spread expertise in the field of land evaluation was acknowledged in 1978 during the World Congress in Edmonton, Canada by his election as chairman of
the Commission ‘Soil Technology’ of the International Society of Soil Science (ISSS). He chaired this commission until 1982.

In 1984, he succeeded Professor Tavernier as director of the ITC-Ghent and in 1987 he was elected president of the Belgian Royal Academy of Overseas Sciences.

Throughout his career his main solicitude has always been to carry out scientific research leading to practical applications. Hereby he was particularly concerned
about the possibilities to apply his findings in the sometimes precarious working conditions of the third world.

Therefore his advices on soil management were always very much appreciated by all the people working in the agricultural sector in developing countries.

His working capacity is illustrated by numerous scientific articles and technical reports, the many M.Sc. and Ph.D. theses prepared under his supervision or with his
collaboration, his activities in the Belgian and International Soil Science Societies and his position as director of the ITC-Ghent. Despite retirement in 1989, Sys
remained interested in the International Training Centre and in the work of the Laboratory of Soil Science, especially in their activities in Central Africa.

Eric Van Ranst – Gent, October 2009