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Soil health ensures healthy crop yield & food sufficiencyqrcode

−− India is endowed with a vast and diverse geographical topography where agriculture is a major source of sustenance for millions

Jan. 7, 2022

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Jan. 7, 2022

Soil health ensures healthy crop yield & food sufficiency

India is endowed with a vast and diverse geographical topography where agriculture is a major source of sustenance for millions. The crop varieties too are as varied and seasonal as the climatic zone in which the regions fall ranging from the high reaches of mountains where horticulture is the focus, to the Gangetic plains rich in alluvial soil which is perfect for wheat and paddy crops, besides the huge acreages of sugarcane cultivation and oil seeds in the arid regions of the country and so on. The agricultural sector of the country, therefore, is very vibrant and nurturing them is a challenge owing to environmental degradation, climate change, depleting water resources, outdated farming tools and techniques, lack of awareness and knowledge exchange and a host of other issues.

The land acreage is static while the population is multiplying many times over and cultivating multiple harvest cycles incessantly has rendered the soil inert and low in nutrition. This situation is impacting the health, quality and quantity of the crop yield, besides posing several socio-economic issues. Seized of the issues pertaining to soil health, which is a key defining factor for food self-sufficiency in India, Mosaic’s explorations to identify unmet crop needs and develop potential solutions following stringent processes and tests before it is introduced in the market emerges from its deep roots in science and commitment to empower the agricultural sector. Backed by rigorous research and development, Mosaic’s crop nutrition products ensure the right balance of nutrients and the right material consistency to give growers an efficient application experience and optimum nutrient distribution for increased yields.

JOURNEY TOWARDS SELF SUFFICIENCY

India today has achieved food security for its vast population with self-sufficiency in grain production, while building export capabilities too. One defining factor that has played a pivotal role is the nutrients that has helped maintain the strength of the soil to achieve higher crop productivity. Production of rice for example has gone up from 34 million tonnes in 1960s to 125 million tonnes in 2021, a phenomenal increase which can largely be attributed to the improvement in soil health management by providing nutrients to enrich the soil via fertilizers. Between 1960 and 2020 yield of food grain crops increased from 712 kg ha-1 to 2325 kg ha-1 (CAGR 2.5%), corresponding jump in NPK use was from mean value of 1.3 kg ha-1 to 93.2 kg ha-1 (CAGR 7.41%).

During the decades of green revolution spanning between 1967 to 1978, the country adopted modern methods and technology including high variety seeds, irrigation services, crop protection technique and nutrients in the form of fertilizers to increase agricultural productivity. The increase in fertilizer use, during the corresponding period respectively for rice and wheat, the architect of Green Revolution, climbed from 0.01 kg ha-1 to 166.5 kg ha-1 and from 0.2 kg ha-1 to 174.2 kg ha-1. Coinciding with that yield of rice jumped 2.7 times (1013 kg ha-1 vs 2705 kg ha-1) and that of wheat multiplied 4 times (851 kg ha-1 vs 3421 kg ha-1). Reportedly, rice and wheat jointly share 70% (rice 40%, wheat 30%) of NPK consumed by all the food grain crops. Rice yield witnessed a remarkable increase from 34 million tonnes to 125 million tonnes between 1960 to 2021.

PROTECTING THE SOIL HEALTH

With declining cultivable land, it is critical that the soil health is maintained, improved and replenished to improve yield to feed the growing population, but sadly the most important resource -soil was not given due attention. Imbalanced application of nutrients and non-replenishment of soil organic content has impacted soil health in a big way. Soil organic matter content is an indicator of soil health which should be about 2.5% to 3.0 % by weight in the root zone (top 20 cm) and that has been reduced to often less than 0.5% in most of the cropland soils of north western India and elsewhere. Land misuse and soil mismanagement has adversely affected soil health undermining the ecosystem services, put it with extractive farming practices such as in-field burning of crop residues, removal of crop residues, excessive tillage, flood-based irrigation and many other factors have profoundly degraded the soil health resulting in low and stagnating crop yields.

Healthy soil is a boon and a blessing for the country as it can alone improve crop productivity and profitability for today and generations to come. Now the key question is, if soil is so important, how can soil health be improved making it more productive for generations to feed? Five critical elements which can be implemented for improving the soil health are: -

- Balanced crop nutrient management
- ncrease the soil organic content
- Crop rotations
- Bring more plantations onto the farmlands
- Reduce compaction of soil

Firstly, it is important to know what the soil needs, as its need differs from region to region with different levels of primary and secondary nutrients deficiency. It thus becomes paramount to understand the nutritional requirement of soils basis their deficiencies e.g., soils in Punjab are primarily deficient in sulphur while soils in Karnataka are deficient in zinc. The most critical aspect is to understand the condition of this principal element- soil in different geographies for providing balanced nutrient management and supply with emphatic focus for improving soil health.

EFFORTS TO PRESERVE THE SOIL

In this regard, the Government of India has undertaken a colossal project to map the soil of entire country and issue soil health cards to all the farmers that would enable them to understand the soil condition and apply nutrients accordingly. By 2021, 159 million soil health cards were printed. Maintaining soil health is not a one-time task, but a continuous process; where all stakeholders like representatives from government, industry, private players in fertilizers and agro-chemicals, NGOs, scientists and the farming communities must be consistently focused. It is essential to leverage modern technologies like satellite imaging and artificial intelligence to map, govern and take corrective measures to improve the soil health.

Read the full article on Outlook India.


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