From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Soil Health Card
Mains level : Paper 3- Soil degradation
A key element of sustainable food production is healthy soil because nearly 95 per cent of global food production depends on soil. The current status of soil health is worrisome.
The threat posed by soil degradation
- The challenge to food security: Soil degradation on an unprecedented scale is a significant challenge to sustainable food production.
- About one-third of the earth’s soils is already degraded and alarmingly, about 90 per cent could be degraded by 2050 if no corrective action is taken.
- Soil degradation in India: While soil degradation is believed to be occurring in 145 million hectares in India, it is estimated that 96.40 million hectares — about 30 per cent of the total geographical area — is affected by land degradation.
- The FAO’s latest ‘State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture’ says: “…soil pollution is also an issue. It knows no borders and compromises the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.
- Globally, the biophysical status of 5,670 million hectares of land is declining, of which 1,660 million hectares (29 per cent) is attributed to human-induced land degradation, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s ‘State of Land, Soil and Water’ report.
Cause of the problem
- Use of agrochemicals: The excessive or inappropriate use of agrochemicals is one cause of the problem.
- The global annual production of industrial chemicals has doubled since the beginning of the 21st century, to approximately 2.3 billion tonnes.
- Extensive use of fertilisers and pesticides led to the deterioration of soil health and contamination of water bodies and the food chain, which pose serious health risks to people and livestock.
- Salination: Another challenge comes from salinisation, which affects 160 million hectares of cropland worldwide.”
About Soil Health Card Scheme
- Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme is promoted by the Department of Agriculture & Co-operation under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.
- An SHC is meant to give each farmer soil nutrient status of his/her holding and advice him/her on the dosage of fertilizers and also the needed soil amendments, that s/he should apply to maintain soil health in the long run.
- SHC is a printed report that a farmer will be handed over for each of his holdings.
- It will be made available once in a cycle of 2 years, which will indicate the status of soil health of a farmer’s holding for that particular period.
- The SHC given in the next cycle of 2 years will be able to record the changes in the soil health for that subsequent period.
- Under the programme as of date, soil health cards have been distributed to about 23 crore farmers.
- The scheme has not only helped in improving the health of the soil, but has also benefited innumerable farmers by increasing crop production and their incomes.
Progress made so far on soil restoration
- India is well on course to achieving the restoration of 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.
- A study conducted by the National Productivity Council in 2017 on this programme revealed that there has been a decrease in the use of chemical fertilisers in the range of 8-10 per cent as a result of the application of fertilisers and micro-nutrients as per the recommendations on the soil health cards.
- Overall, an increase in crop yields to the tune of 5-6 per cent was reported as a result.
- First organic state in the world: “A Healthy Planet for Healthy Children’’ published by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the World Future Council highlighted success stories from various countries — including Sikkim in India, which became the first organic state in the world.
- Natural farming: Several studies have established that natural farming and organic farming are not only cost-effective but also lead to improvement in soil health and the farmland ecosystem.
- Agro-ecological practices: With the threat to food security looming large globally, the need of the hour is to adopt innovative policies and agro-ecological practices that create healthy and sustainable food production systems.
The time has come for collective global action involving governments and civil society to reverse the alarming trend of soil degradation.