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Special Content

Issue no 36, 03-09 December 2022

World Soil Day

An Effort to Save a Unique Ecosystem Sustaining the Planet



World Soil Day is held annually on 5th December as a means to focus attention on the importance of healthy soil and advocating for the sustainable management of soil resources. Since its inception in 2014, the World Soil Day has expanded from 42 events in 2014 to about 781 celebrations in 125 countries in 2021. Soil nutrient loss is a major soil degradation process threatening nutrition and is recognized as being among the most important problems at a global level for food security and sustainability all around the globe. World Soil Day 2022, and its campaign 'Soils: Where Food Begins', aim to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, increasing soil awareness, and encouraging societies to improve soil health.

Why is soil important?

Soil is where food begins. Soil is the source of most of our food (a pivotal source of agricultural products) and is central to our planet's life-support system. Soil provides nutrients, water and minerals to plants and trees, stores carbon, and is home to billions of insects, small animals, bacteria, and many other microorganisms. As per the FAO, a quarter of the planet's biological diversity exists in soil. There are billions of micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and protozoans in the soil, as well as thousands of insects, mites, and worms. More organisms are contained in one tablespoon of healthy soil than there are people on the planet. Therefore, paying attention to soil biodiversity is instrumental for preservation of life on Earth. Yet, the amount of fertile soil on the planet has been diminishing at an alarming rate, compromising the ability of farmers to grow food to feed a global population that is projected to top nine billion by 2050. As stated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), "Soil degradation is a silent process but with huge consequences for humanity. Studies show that about a third of the planet's soils are facing moderate to severe degradation." Therefore, making efforts to maintain the health of the soil is a "crucial ally in ensuring food security and nutrition for all". Soil is a finite resource as it is non-renewable. It can take hundreds to thousands of years to form one centimetre of soil from parent rock. Poor farming practices, such as extensive tilling, excessive irrigation, overuse of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, deplete soil nutrients faster than they are able to form, leading to loss of soil fertility and degrading soils. Soil is not just a food source. It also mitigates climate change as it provides resilience to flood and drought. Soil makes up the greatest pool of terrestrial organic carbon, more than double the amount stored in vegetation.


How is India taking care of its soils?

Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme was launched in the country in 2015 to mark the International Year of Soils. The objective is to increase the know-how about soil and soil management, and to reduce the gaps between the scientist/ extension personnel as well as farmers. This programme is being operationalised to facilitate the scientific information based on the requirements of the farmers. An SHC is meant to give each farmer soil nutrient status of his/her holding and advise him/her on the dosage of fertilizers and also the needed soil amendments, that she should apply to maintain soil health in the long run. SHC is a printed report that a farmer is handed over for each of his holdings. It contains the status of his/her soil with respect to 12 parameters, namely macro-nutrients N (Nitrogen), P (Phosphorus), K (Potassium); Secondary nutrients S (Sulphur); (micro-nutrients) Zn (Zinc), Fe (Iron), Cu (Copper), Mn (Manganese), Bo (Boron); and physical parameters pH (potential of Hydrogen), EC (Electrical Conductivity), OC (Organic Carbon). Based on this, the SHC also indicates fertilizer recommendations and soil amendment required for the farm.


Objectives of Soil Health Card Scheme

·         To issue soil health cards every two years to all farmers, so as to provide a basis to address nutrient deficiencies in fertilization practices

·         To strengthen functioning of Soil Testing Laboratories (STLs) through capacity building, involvement of agriculture students and effective linkage with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) / State Agricultural Universities.

·         To diagnose soil fertility related constraints with standardised procedures for sampling uniformly across States, and analyse and design taluka / block level fertilizer recommendations in targeted districts.

·         To develop and promote soil test based nutrient management in the districts for enhancing nutrient use efficiency.

·         To provide financial assistance to farmers to apply corrective measures for deficiencies and popularising balance and integrated nutrient management practices for their cropping systems

·         To build capacities of district and state level staff and of progressive farmers for promotion of nutrient management practices.


Benefits of the Soil Health Card Scheme

·         Under the scheme, soil is tested and a formatted report is provided to the farmers. With this report, they are able to decide which are the crops they should be cultivating and which are the ones they should skip.

·         The authorities test the soil on a regular basis and provide a report to farmers. So, farmers need not worry if the nature of the soil changes due to certain factors. Also, they always have updated data about their soil.

·         The work of the Government does not stop at listing down measures required to improve the quality of the soil. In fact, the Government also employs experts to help the farmers in carrying out the corrective measures.

·         Farmers get a proper soil health record. Farmers can also study the soil management practices and plan the future of their crops and land accordingly. The card gives the farmers a proper idea of which nutrients their soil is lacking, and hence, which crops they should invest in. It also tells the farmers which fertilizers they need.


Compiled by: Anuja Bhardwajan & Annesha Banerjee Source: PIB/FAO/Vikaspedia