Washington: Eminent Indian-American soil scientist Dr Rattan Lal, who won the prestigious World Food Prize 2020, has called for the immediate stopping of burning of crop residue in India, saying taking everything away from the land is not good as there is a law of return.

Lal, 75, was on Thursday named the recipient of the USD 250,000 World Food Prize, considered to be equivalent to a Nobel Prize for agriculture, in recognition of his contribution to increase the global food supply by helping small farmers improve their soil's health.

In his career spanning more than five decades and four continents, Lal has promoted innovative soil-saving techniques benefiting the livelihoods of more than 500 million small farmers, the World Food Prize Foundation, which is based in Iowa, said in a statement.

His work has also improved the food and nutritional security of more than two billion people and saved hundreds of millions of hectares of natural tropical ecosystems, it said.

The foundation said that Lal, a native of India and citizen of the US, will receive the 2020 World Food Prize for developing and mainstreaming a soil-centric approach to increasing food production that restores and conserves natural resources and mitigates climate change.

Lal, a Distinguished Professor in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at the Ohio State University, said that he would donate the USD 250,000 award money for future soil research and education.

Soil science has been recognised by this award. I feel very happy about it, he told PTI after the announcement. The eminent soil scientist called for the immediate stopping of burning of crop residue in states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

Taking everything away from land is not good for land. There is a law of return. Whatever you take from the earth, you must return it back, he said.

Stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana is a major cause of air pollution not only in the two states but also in Delhi, the national capital. The two states annually generate 220 lakh tonne and 65 lakh tonne of paddy stubble, respectively.

Lal said that organic matter content in the surface layer should be between two and three per cent. But soil in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Central India and Southern parts contain maybe 0.5 per cent or maybe 0.2 per cent.

They are severely depleted, degraded. Consequently, not only that the productivity is low, yields are low, but also the use efficiency of inputs, like fertilizer irrigation varieties, is also low. When crops are grown on an unhealthy soil, the quality of the food, nutritional quality is also poor.

When health of soil is degraded, the health of people is also degraded. I think it's very important for India and other developing countries to really pay attention to restoring the health of the soil, he said. Brick-making, which is fast depleting soil, is another major concern for Lal.

India should have a soil protection policy, he said, adding that certain parts of agricultural land cannot be taken out for brick making. He also called for rewarding farmers who help in protecting the soil by not burning crops, more use of compost and manure.

Soil protection policy is important. We should have a regular soil health assessment report every five years at the national level. How is soil changing and we should protect agricultural land against other usage patterns like urbanisation, brick making, he said, adding that fertilizer is not a good substitute for crop management.

Stating that the crop yields in India are about half of that in China and even lesser than that of the United States, Lal noted that there appears to be no reason for that.

We should have a crop yield as good as any country. The health of our soil is poor. We have given a lot of emphasis on varieties. Varieties are important. (But) one cannot do anything if the soil is poor. That is a part which we must recognise.

I think Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi can do quite a lot on that part, improving soil health and (launch a) soil health movement, he said.

Lal said the award is especially important because the first recipient of this prestigious award in 1987 was Indian agricultural scientist Dr M S Swaminathan, the father of India's Green Revolution.

In a country like India, he said, soil is prone to degradation because of harsh climate and other factors.

So, this award to a soil scientist highlights the importance of restoring and managing soil health. We need to give more attention to Dharti Mata (mother earth). Our shastras and puranas also indicated that we must pay respect to Dharti Mata. So, this award means a lot to me, Dr Lal said.

Dr Lal's stellar work on management and conservation of agriculture's most cherished natural resource, the soil, set him apart, said Gebisa Ejeta, chair of the World Food Prize Selection Committee and 2009 recipient of the award.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lauded Lal's research in soil science, saying he is helping millions of small farmers around the world with his work on increasing food production and recycling of nutrients.

The world's population continues to grow and we need to use the resources we have more productively, and efficiently to make sure everyone has enough food on their table, Pompeo said.

US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the scientific innovations, like those developed by Lal, embody the US Department of Agriculture's motto of to do right and feed everyone.

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Bengaluru,Jul 31: Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Saturday said he is likely to get a message from the BJP high command on cabinet expansion in a couple of days and will have to leave for New Delhi once again to finalise it.

"I couldn't meet J P Nadda (BJP National President) today, but had met him yesterday.

Most likely they will send a message to me in two days and I'll have to go to Delhi once again.

We will finalise the cabinet," Bommai said.

Asked whether the cabinet expansion will take place in two stages, he told reporters here on his arrival from Delhi that it cannot be revealed now.

Bommai was on a two-day visit to Delhi during which he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Nadda, a host of central Ministers, MPs and Ministers from Karnataka, among others.

Ministerial aspirants, meanwhile, have continued lobbying to secure a berth in the new cabinet.

While several legislators, including some former Ministers, are camping in Delhi and are lobbying to make it to the new cabinet, some have openly expressed their aspirations to become Ministers.

According to party sources, some legislators like Ramesh Jarkiholi, M P Renukacharya and Munirathna have met former Chief Minister and BJP veteran B S Yediyurappa at his residence here.

Demanding a Ministerial post, Haveri MLA Neharu Olekar said he should be given an opportunity in the new cabinet and it is the wish of party workers from the constituency, who have even staged a demonstration.

"Our fight will not end. This is the third time and I should be given the opportunity... I'm confident that the leaders will bless me.

No opportunity has been given so far to anyone from the Chalawadi community by BJP,while Congress has given...so there is the fear of them shifting towards Congress," he said.

Senior BJP leader and former Minister K S Eshwarappa said he has been getting several calls stating that he should have been made the Chief Minister after Yediyurappa was removed and at least he should be made Deputy Chief Minister now.

"It is for the high command to decide," he said.

Stating that cabinet formation is left to the discretion of the Chief Minister, another senior leader and former Minister V Somanna said Basavaraj Bommai is close to him and has experience.

"His father was also a CM, and will choose his cabinet ministers."

Downplaying reports of a rift between him and another senior BJP leader R Ashoka, he said "it is an internal matter between us. It is an old issue and has nothing to do with cabinet formation or becoming a Minister.

Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah urged that the cabinet be formed at the earliest, as the CM alone cannot handle things

Meanwhile officials have to be instructed to take measures to manage flood and the COVID situation, he said.

"I don't think he (CM) discussed cabinet expansion during his Delhi visit. Maybe he may go once again...but he should have discussed it and finalised, given the current situation," he said.

Bommai, who was elected as the new leader of the BJP legislature party on Tuesday following Yediyurappa's resignation, took oath as the Chief Minister on Wednesday.

Expanding the Ministry will be the first big challenge before the new Chief Minister as he will have to navigate through the cabinet formation exercise by maintaining a balance between factions within the ruling BJP.

There are several aspirants among the party old guard and youngsters. There are also legislators who had joined the BJP after quitting Congress-JD(S) coalition in 2019.