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Soil Health Management for Food Security
7/24/2019 12:43:07 AM

Dr. Banarsi Lal

Healthy soil is an essential resource for the global farming, food security and energy. Soil provides living space for the living organisms as well as the ecosystem services which are essential for the water regulation, biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration etc. In fact, the soil is under tremendous pressure due to increase in population at an alarming rate and higher demand for food. It has been observed that around 33 per cent of global soils are degraded. Soil is constituted of organic remains, clay and rock particles found on the earth's surface. Soil helps in food production, biodiversity and energy maintenance. Soil health is being deteriorated by the unhealthy agricultural practices, deforestation and pollution. The government of India is contemplating on agriculture not merely as a tool to feed the country but also as a means to uplift the socio-economic status of the farming community of the country. The government has initiated a number of developmental schemes and programmes which have the potential to immensely benefit the farming community by strengthening the roots of agriculture. On 19th February, 2015 the Prime Minister of India launched the nationwide Soil Health Card Scheme from Suratgarh, Rajasthan. Agriculture is a tool for poverty eradication. The govt. has sanctioned 100 mobile soil testing laboratories across the country and approximately 2.53 crore soil samples would be collected during 2015-16. The government has announced that 14.5 crore farmers would get the soil health cards within three years across the country. Soil Health Card Scheme is a national movement across the country. Under this scheme the soil sample is taken by the experts from the farmer's field and tested in a soil health laboratory. Then the soil health card is issued to the farmers regarding the ingredients and deficiencies in the soil. On the basis of the results of the soils of respective farmer field, he can add the plants nutrients in the soil accordingly. This scheme may not only maintain the health of the soil but will also reduce the cost of cultivation. This will also help to identify the best crop suited in the respective field.
Soil and water are the two basic resources which are under intense pressure from increased population and degradation has already set in at many fragile watershed ecosystems. These two natural resources management greatly affect the social and economic structure of our rural areas and the whole nation. It is expected that there will be the need to produce around 64 per cent more of present level of agricultural production to feed the estimated 800 million population upto2020.The problems in management of these resources are continuous soil erosion and runoff inflicting permanent damage to the soil and water systems. Soil erosion, the displacement of soil particles from soil surfaces is a serious problem in our country. This process ultimately loses the productivity of soil as a whole causing some other problems like environmental issues. But soil erosion enriches valley bottoms and forms the rich plains. Although erosion is considered as a natural process but it is also caused by human beings. The activities like deforestation, farming of slopes, road construction, overgrazing etc. increase soil erosion. Soil erosion can be a slow process but it can be very fast causing serious loss of topsoil. Many nutrients and organic matter of soil is lost by soil erosion. The loss of topsoil certainly affects the production of crops. It affects the surface water quality and the drainage system of soil is also disturbed.
Soil fertility needs to be restored in order to allow a satisfactory and early return on the capital and labour invested. So there is need of improved sustainable production through different soil management practices. Land husbandry considers management of soil, water and vegetation as an integrated approach. For example, frequent failures to several water management schemes are attributed to the non-consideration of the interrelationships between soil, water and biomass. A new strategy needs to be developed taking into account the needs of those in direct charge of the land. By improving the overall soil conditions for plant growth, better conservation of water and soil can be achieved. Better land husbandry is more relevant when the land is under active crop production. These apply to land use, crop management, tillage methods, integrated nutrient management etc .Land husbandry relies strongly on agronomic and biological methods in combination with a realistic soil management .The intensity of the soil conservation treatments depends primarily on the steepness of the slope. The establishment or maintenance is very important. The physical characteristics of erodable soils can be improved with mulching materials. There are certain concepts in land conservation. These are (a)Loss of productivity is equally important than the loss of soil.(b)Soil degradation should be prevented before it arises, instead of attempting to cure it afterwards.(c)Crop yields are reduced due to shortage of water than by soil erosion. So the emphasis should be given on water conservation than soil conservation. (d)Runoff can be prevented by increasing infiltration. (e)Soil and water conservation should be promoted as an integral part of a productive farming.(f)In order to increase the fertility of soil, organic matter should be added in soil.(g)Soil conservation activities should be bottom up rather than top down in approach. People participation is must in the soil conservation activities. (h)Indigenous technical knowledge of the farmers in soil conservation should also be encouraged. Farmers can adopt the technologies which are available on subsidies basis. It has been observed that when the implementing agencies withdraw from scene, these technologies are not sustained or likely to fail in long run. In rain fed farming it has been observed that crop yields are reduced due to shortage of water than by loss of soil. Therefore, more attention should be paid on rainwater harvesting. In India mostly the rainfall occurs in 3-4 months. So, water conservation is very important in these months. The water stored in these 3-4 months can be utilized throughout the year. Soil and water conservation are always considered together. Reduction in surface run-off by changes in soil management or by structures helps to conserve water. Many water conservation activities also conserve soil. Contour bunds can be used to conserve the soil and water by increasing infiltration and percolation. Water and soil are linked together and this linkage may cause water problems in a watershed. Water is an integral part of land use. Also land use influences water characteristics by water partitioning at the soil surface and in the subsoil and by the role of water as a carrier of solutes and sediments. An integrated approach should be taken to land water and its uses to avoid undesirable effects from human activities. An economic development is always associated with proper management of water resources. Water is an excellent monitoring mechanism and it is the best index of watershed management. Shortage of water is experienced in many sectors. Scarcity of good quality water would be a major challenge in the new millennium. In India water is mainly consumed for agricultural purposes while the water use would increase by 3-4 times for domestic sector and 7-8 times for industrial sector. A part of water demand can be met through better management practices like water conservation and water harvesting. Basically water flow is a top-down process because gravity determines the direction of water flow. Most of the soil conservation programmes emphasize on soil degradation than on the top-down approach in recommending and disseminating practices. Soil conservation programmes that aim to reduce soil degradation problems need long-term bottom-up approach. It should be remembered that erosion is a consequence of how soil and its vegetation are managed and not itself the cause of soil degradation. Thus, prevention of soil degradation is more important than attempting to develop a cure afterwards. There is dire need to create awareness among the people on soil health and technical and scientific advice should be provided to the farmers.
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