From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : SHC scheme
Mains level : Soil health and its significance for farm productivity
The Soil Health Card Scheme has completed 5 years since its launch.
Soil Health Card Scheme
- Soil Health Card (SHC) is a Government of India’s scheme promoted by the Department of Agriculture & Co-operation under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.
- It is being implemented through the Department of Agriculture of all the State and Union Territory Governments.
- A 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.
- The scheme was launched by PM on 19.02.2015 at Suratgarh, Rajasthan.
Details on the SHC
- SHC is a printed report that a farmer will be handed over for each of his holdings.
- It contains the status of his soil with respect to 12 parameters, namely N,P,K (Macro-nutrients) ; S (Secondary- nutrient) ; Zn, Fe, Cu, Mn, Bo (Micro – nutrients) ; and pH, EC, OC (Physical parameters).
- Based on this, the SHC also indicate fertilizer recommendations and soil amendment required for the farm.
- It provides two sets of fertilizer recommendations for six crops including recommendations of organic manures. Farmers can also get recommendations for additional crops on demand.
- The State Government will collect samples through the staff of their Department of Agriculture or through the staff of an outsourced agency.
- The State Government may also involve the students of local Agriculture / Science Colleges.
- It will be made available once in a cycle of 3 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 3 years will be able to record the changes in the soil health for that subsequent period.
- Soil samples will be drawn in a grid of 2.5 ha in irrigated area and 10 ha in rain- fed area with the help of GPS tools and revenue maps.
Why needed such scheme?
- Soil testing is developed to promote soil test based on nutrient management.
- Soil testing reduces cultivation cost by application of right quantity of fertilizer.
- It ensures additional income to farmers by increase in yields and it also promotes sustainable farming.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : About the technology
Mains level : Preventing Soil Erosion
- Indian scientists have now developed a method to measure the rate of soil erosion and associated decrease in organic content in soil by assessing levels of radioactive cesium in soil.
Radioactive Cesium Technology
- Researchers at the ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Dehradun have developed a way to monitor soil erosion and decrease in carbon content in soil by relating it with levels of radioactive cesium in soil.
- Carbon concentration is soil correlates with levels of isotope of cesium.
- Different sites were found to have varying levels of cesium pointing at different degrees of soil degradation in different sites.
- By applying various formulas, the cesium loss was then used to calculate erosion and associated carbon loss in soil.
- For measuring cesium levels in soil, gamma spectroscopy technique was used.
Benefits of this technique
- Radioactive cesium technology is a more rapid and less expensive method for soil erosion studies in the severely intensive croplands.
- It gives more accurate results for all types of erosion studies including historic, comparative and long-term soil and soil organic carbon erosion.
- This method can help in monitoring the effects of soil erosion and effectiveness of soil conservation strategies.
Why monitor Soil Erosion?
- Soil supports plants, insects and microbial life and is formed by natural forces over a long period of time.
- Carbon reaches soil through the microbial action on withering plant parts and remains in soil, changing its physio-chemical properties and also enhancing its fertility.
- This way soil also sequesters carbon helping in regulating carbon levels in the atmosphere.
- Soil erosion, which involves disaggregation and displacement of soil, leads to decrease in its organic content and eventually its fertility.
- Natural and human activities are contributing to soil erosion and posing problems for both food production and climate change.
- Therefore, monitoring of soil erosion induced-carbon loss from soil is important.
Soil Health Card – A Tool For Agri Revolution
Launched by the central government in February 2015, the scheme is tailor-made to issue ‘Soil card’ to farmers which will carry crop-wise recommendations of nutrients and fertilizers required for the individual farms.
Agriculture as primary activity in India
- Agriculture since ages is the mainstay of the Indian population.
- The story of Indian agriculture has been a spectacular one, with a global impact for its multi-functional success in generating employment, livelihood, food, nutritional and ecological security.
- Agriculture and allied activities contribute about 18% to the GDP of India (as of 2014-15). The green revolution had heralded the first round of changes.
- India is the second largest producer of wheat, rice, sugar, groundnut as also in production of cash crops like coffee, coconut and tea.
What is the scope and focus of government in agriculture?
- India is now eyeing second Green Revolution in eastern India.
- The need for enhanced investment in agriculture with twin focus on higher quality productivity and welfare of farmers.
- In the entire scenario, importantly the government has laid emphasis on the awareness campaign and enhanced agri knowledge for the farming community.
Why is there a need of awareness in assessing soil health position?
- Awareness of soil health position and the role of manures would help in higher production of foodgrains in eastern India too and this would help tackle the decline in production in central and peninsular India.
- The growth in foodgrains, rice and wheat, from eastern India would provide an opportunity to procure and create foodgrain reserves locally.
- This would reduce the agricultural pressure on Punjab and Haryana as well.
Is it Gujarat’s model programme?
- From 2003-04, Gujarat has been the first state to introduce Soil Health cards, to initiate the scientific measures for Soil Health care.
- In Gujarat, over 100 soil laboratories were set up and the result of scheme was found quite satisfactory.
- To start with, the agriculture income of Gujarat from Rs 14000 crore in 2000-01 had gone up to staggeringly high Rs 80,000 crore in 2010-11.
Why did government start taking effective action on soil health card initiative?
- According to renowned expert and the ‘father of Green Revolution’, M S Swaminathan, there is need to opt for wide range of crops cultivation.
- The awareness of soil health conditions would only make these operations easier and more result oriented. The government can help farmers adopt crop diversification.
- The Soil Health Card mechanism definitely aims to help herald some essential revolutionary changes and salutary effect in country’s agricultural scene.
- Farmers would understand the fertility factor of the land better and can be attracted towards value added newer crops.
- This would help reduction in risk in farming and also the cost of overall cultivation process would get reduced.
Why has Soil Health Card portal been launched?
- Some states are already issuing Soil Health Cards but, it was found that, there was no uniform norm for sampling, testing and distribution of Soil Health Cards across the states.
- Taking a holistic view on these, the central government has thus rightly taken measures like launching of a Soil Health Card portal.
- This would be useful for registration of soil samples, recording test results of soil samples and generation of Soil Health Card (SHC) along with Fertilizer Recommendations.
- Soil Health Card portal aims to generate and issue Soil Health Cards based on either Soil Test-Crop Response (STCR) formulae developed by ICAR or General Fertilizer Recommendations provided by state Governments.
How will it be implemented by Union and State government?
- The scheme has been approved for implementation during 12th Plan with an outlay of Rs.568.54 crore.
- For the current year (2015-16) an allocation of Rs.96.46 crore – only for the central government share-has been made.
- The scheme is to be otherwise implemented on 50:50 sharing pattern between Government of India and state Governments.
- In order to improve quality of soil and ultimately for better nutrient values and higher yields.
- Experts say while at present, general fertilizer recommendations are followed by farmers for primary nutrients, the secondary and micronutrients are often overlooked.
Can proactive steps and such programmes lead to efficient and effective agriculture? Really?
- The government is effectively marching in quite ambitiously for a grand success of the Soil Health Card scheme and proposes to ensure that all farmers in the country have their respective Soil Health Cards by 2017.
- In the first year of NDA regime 2014-15, a sum of Rs 27 crore was sanctioned and in 2015-16, there is an allocation of Rs 100 crore to all the states to prepare soil health cards.
What do you think on such proactive initiatives by government? Let us know!
Source - Ministry of Agriculture