Need to replenish soil health, says food prize awardee - ECAS Punjab

Need to replenish soil health, says food prize awardee

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Minna Zutshi

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 15

Distinguished pedologist Dr Rattan Lal has become this year’s recipient of the $250,000 World Food Prize for promoting soil for sustainable development.

Stressing the basic interconnectedness of life, Dr Lal says: “Our scripture says that there are 84 lakh life forms. Science has determined that there are 87 lakh. How can only one life form (human) consume 40 per cent or more of what the Earth produces? We must be fair to other species and return some land back to the nature for other species to survive.” Dr Lal, now a US citizen, was born at Karyal in erstwhile Punjab and graduated with major in soil science from Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). He was conferred the honorary degree of doctor of science by the PAU in 2001.

Talking to The Tribune about the basic philosophy of his research, Dr Lal said: “The basic philosophy comes from our scriptures, including Gurbani and Prasana Upanishad, according to which health of soil, plants, animals, people and environment is one and indivisible.”

He said: “Regardless of what religion one believes in, each scripture teaches us the importance of sustaining and protecting natural resources and not wasting food.”

“Pandemics such as Covid-19 are aggravated because we encroach upon nature. Soil and nature have rights. The Ganges and the Himalayan mountains have the right to be protected, restored and managed judiciously,” he said.

Talking about carbon count, Dr Lal said: “Agricultural soils of India are severely depleted of their organic matter content. The focus should be on CNPK (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) rather than just NPK.”

“This is also based on the law of return. It states that we must return to the soil whatever is removed from it. The burning of crop residue and using animal dung for cooking rather than putting it back on land are not good for soil.” Dr Lal said: “Punjab and Haryana have been, are and will be the bread basket of India. However, these states and India must reconcile the need to produce food with the absolute necessity to improve the environment. It is not either-or. We must have both.”

“Tragic as it is, restrictions imposed during the pandemic show that air and water quality can be improved. We must learn how to work in symbiosis with nature rather than against nature,” he added.

from The Tribune

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