Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Soil Testing: Fundamental to sustainable agriculture

                                                             SANJU VERMA

Mother earth is so far the only place of living organism in the Universe to live, as no other planet in the solar system or otherwise in the whole of Universe, there is any evidence of life. Air, Water and soil are the pre-requisite for existence of life, which also include human beings.

For Human beings and other animals air is compulsorily required for combustion to generate energy from food to continue life. Generation of food is entirely dependent on water and soil, which is found on the upper crust of earth.

Like the quality of air, quality of water and soil is also important for sustaining life on earth. Thus sustainability of any human activity is of paramount importance in the modern world, as our forefathers have mindlessly exploited the resources provided by mother land.

Agriculture is the core vocation of mankind and without it nothing could be perceived. But in yesteryears, with an urge to have more produce from smaller prices of lands farmers used excessive chemicals and fertilizers and have thus destroyed the quality of soil. Now a big question looms, as to how sustainable is the current course of agriculture in India.

Keeping this in mind, the government launched a national scheme of scientifically testing the soil quality and accordingly farmers are suggested to use limited fertilizers. The method is well recognised as a sound scientific tool to assess inherent power of soil to supply plant nutrients.

The benefits of soil testing have been established through scientific research, extensive field demonstrations, and on the basis of actual fertilizer use by the farmers on soil test based fertilizer use recommendations.

Soil testing was initiated in the country in the beginning of planning era by setting up of 16 soil testing laboratories during 1955. Government of India has been supporting this programme during different plan periods to increase the soil analysing capacity in the country. The numerical strength does not, however, decisively indicate the quality and success of the programme. Planners and agriculturalists have recognised the utility of the service fully but it suffers due to inadequate scientific support in its execution.

Thus the present government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a special emphasis on the scheme. Modi personally called upon the farmers to participate in the scheme. He has also urged the schools and colleges to come up in a big way and use laboratory during holidays to test soil.

However, despite constraints, the scheme is bearing fruit up to some extent with its limited resources however another major limitation is the illiteracy factor among the farmers for whom the entire scheme is dedicated.

With about 12 crore farm holdings in the country, soil analysing capacity of 4 crore samples annually is required to enable analysis of each holding once in three years. In Haryana renewal of SHC is required after every five years while soil fertility map is also being prepared. All these require a massive expansion in soil testing programme in the States.

However, a few of the States including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh have made commendable progress in soil testing programme in various ways such as expansion of soil testing facilities, popularisation of the programme in campaign mode, development of soil fertility maps and use of information technology in delivering soil nutrient status and appropriate recommendation to farmers.

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