Yash Kalra (Canada)
Address: Canadian Forest Service, 5320-122 Street, Edmonton , Alberta , Canada
Position: Soil Chemist (Head, Soil and Plant Analysis Laboratory), since 1967
1. When did you decide to study soil science?
I grew up on a farm and, therefore, have been interested in agriculture from an early age.
I studied agriculture at the A.N. Jha College , Rudrapur and obtained a B.Sc.
(Agriculture)) degree from the Government Agriculture College (C.S. Azad University of Agriculture and Technology), Kanpur , India in 1961. For M.Sc. (Agricultural Chemistry), we studied these subjects (1) Inorganic Chemistry (2) Organic and Plant Chemistry (3) Statistics (4) Chemistry of Milk Products, Animal Nutrition, and Feeds, and (5) Soils, Fertilizers, and Manures. I found soil science most interesting and decided
to specialize in this field. An International Travel Award from the Prime Minister of India in 1963, a Research Fellowship from the University of Manitoba , Winnipeg , Canada (1963-64), and a Research Assistantship from the National Research Council of Canada (1964-66) enabled me to accomplish this.
2. Who has been your most influential teacher?
I have been taught by some of the most dedicated teachers in the world. My most influential teacher was Dr. A.N. Pathak, Professor and Head, Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, C.S. Azad University . For my thesis, I conducted research under his supervision. He taught us soil science. I was fascinated by his lectures. In addition to being an excellent teacher, he was a noble man. He inspired me to achieve excellence in whatever I did. I learnt from him the same way as I learnt from my parents: 'It is nice to be important but it is even more important to be nice'.
3. What do you find most exciting about soil science?
Soil science is an interdisciplinary science enabling one to specialize in chemistry, fertility, physics, mineralogy, analytical techniques, etc. Soil and plant analysis can play a significant role in addressing complex environmental problems There are exciting opportunities to develop methods of analysis. I had the opportunity of coordinating the first international study on the validation of methods for soil analysis under the auspices of the AOAC INTERNATIONAL and the Soil Science Society of America. After having served as Head of the Soil and Plant Analysis Laboratory for more than 42 years, I still find the work challenging and exciting.
4. How would you stimulate teenagers and young graduates to study soil science?
A strong mechanism needs to be developed to promote soil science education to teachers and students in schools. It is very important that elementary school students be exposed to soil science by teachers who can make it interesting. With the introduction of the importance of soil science, the students can be attracted to the exciting field of soil science for their further studies. As soil scientists, we have a responsibility to inspire teenagers and young graduates to study soil science. Parents can do their part by taking children to activities such as Earth Day, field days at universities and colleges, and visits to farms, greenhouses, and vegetable gardens.
Many schools participate in local, regional and national science fairs. I have served as a judge at the Annual Edmonton Regional Science Fair for 22 years. I have noted a decline in projects related to soil science. This is a cause for concern. We should encourage the students to participate in these events. The graduate students should be encouraged to participate in conferences, symposia, and other scientific meetings.
5. How do you see the future of soil science?
The future of soil science is promising. There are many opportunities and challenges. One of the major challenges relates to the cause and effect of climate change. Extensive laboratory analyses are required for several environmental problems. Having served as President of the Soil and Plant Analysis Council and Chair of the 7th International Symposium on Soil and Plant Analysis held in Edmonton in 2001, I strongly feel that financial assistance must be increased to enable a greater participation of scientists from developing countries in international scientific meetings.