Monday, 2 December 2013
SAVE SOIL: A PRECIOUS NATURAL RESOURCE
Soil is a fundamental resource for the welfare of human, and life in general on earth, and as such it is one of the most important assets to protect and pass on to future generations. India has the onerous task of feeding almost 17 percent of the global human, 11 per cent of the livestock population on only 2.3 per cent of the world's land and the entire burden of producing enough depends upon the first few inches of the earth's crust - SOIL. It is estimated that by 2025, India would require 350 million tonnes of food grains to feed its teeming millions. This target has to be met under the constraint of an almost fixed net cultivated area hovering around 140±2 million ha since the 1970s.
Land degradation is a great problem to soil health and productivity. The constraints relating to balance between living-being and soils have resulted in several kinds of land degradation, environmental pollution, decline in crop productivity and sustainability, deforestation, non-agricultural land uses, environmental deterioration, misplaced hydrology viz. water logging, salinity, sodicity, declining water table and low water use efficiency. Nearly 57% of the country’s total geographical area is under various degrees and categories of soil degradation. The latest estimates given by NBSS & LUP, Nagpur show that the total degraded land in India is 187.8 Million ha, of which 162.4 million ha is due to displacement of soil material by water (148.9 m ha) and wind (13.5 m ha), 10.1 million ha by salinization, and 11.6 m ha by water logging. The remaining 3.7 m ha is affected by the depletion of nutrients.
Because of continuous cultivation over centuries and intensification of agriculture in recent years, there has been progressive and substantial depletion of the soil reserves. Of late, secondary and micronutrient deficiencies are also emerging and the crop response to these nutrients is increasing. The factors responsible for higher yield are high soil productivity, supply of balance crop nutrients are the most important.
Despite increasing use of chemical fertilizers over the years, there has been continuous nutrient mining of the soils. The nutrient remove from the soil for production of food grains and other agricultural crops far exceeds the nutrient applied. The threat to long term sustainability of agriculture is not due to alleged excessive use but primarily due to under use of manure (compost, vermicompost etc.) and the resultant nutrient mining of the soils.
These are all known soil degradation processes which lessen the current or potential capability of soils to produce crops or biomass. Many technologies are available to check this and conserve soils for sustained productivity. There is a need to develop sustainable soil management systems for achieving target food production from limited soil resources. Therefore, Mitti bachao slogan for conserving soil resource for future is more relevant in present situation to feed the rising populations.
The SED has been carrying out Mitti Bachao Andolan (Save Soil Campaign) in five districts of Rajasthan (Kota, Bundi, Jhalawar, Baran and Sawai Madhopur). Under the campaign farmers, students and school teachers are not only made aware about the soil and its conservation but also equipped with portable soil testing kits with training to test soil samples.