Soil Conservation • Of the total geographical area of 329 m ha, about 146 m ha is classified as degraded, although varying estimates have been provided by different agencies. • Of the country’s total 142 m ha cultivated land, 57 m ha, 40 per cent of the total, is irrigated and the remaining 85 m ha is rain-fed. • The soil health has been deteriorating, especially widespread micro-nutrient deficiencies (hidden hunger) and fast depleting carbon content, resulting in low and decelerated TFP growth rates.
Soil Conservation • Detailed soil data (physical, biological, chemical and microbial) based on effective soil testing are pre- requisites for all lands under both rain-fed and irrigated agriculture to address the issues related to soil health. • Central and State Land Use Boards should be reorganized and empowered to lead this work. • Every farm family should be issued with a Soil Health Passbook, which contains integrated information on the physics, chemistry and microbiology of the soils on their farm. • More laboratories to detect specific micronutrient deficiencies in soils are urgently needed. • Soil organic matter content will have to be increased by incorporating crop residues in the soil. Proper technical advice on the reclamation of wastelands and on improving their biological potential should be available. • Pricing policies should promote a balanced and efficient use of fertilizers.
Soil Conservation • The existing practice of soil reclamation and nutrient management using chemicals could be supplemented through various organic means, i.e., application of FYM, compost, vermi-compost, green manuring with an objective to regenerate the wasted potential in eco-friendly manner. • It is essential to revitalize the soil system through organic residues and materials. • The soil energy system would enhance once soil biosphere is activated. The microbial activity in soil system would not only enhance the organic matter content but also improve the soil physical condition that ultimately enables the availability of more nutrient and moisture to the plants. • conservation farming should be developed and adopted as per location-specific settings.
Soil Conservation • The land use policy needs to be developed as per land capability that is to be derived out of soil survey data. • It is necessary to revive the State Land Use Boards (SLUBs) which should be the nodal agencies to implement land use policy. • The networking of all SLUBs needs to be established through reviving National Land Conservation Board (NLCB) for proper implementation of land use policy in the country. • The existing data base on soils available in the country on 1:50000 scale would help to develop the land use policy to a great extent.
Soil Coservation • SLUB should carry out land budgeting and crop planning as per state’s requirements of various food crops, vegetables, pulses, oilseeds, etc., that will enable to adopt proper planning for crop production, delivery system and marketing for the benefit of farming communities and rural people. • Agri-clinics, Village Knowledge Centres, Village Resource Centres and Farm Science Managers in each Village Panchayat should help use the soil test results in soil-plant-nutrient management. • Computerized modules for soil-crop care should be prepared for distinct sites.
Per capita land availability has dropped from 0.48 ha in 1951 to 0.16 ha in 1991 and is projected to drop to 0.08 ha in 2035. • Enhancing and sustaining productivity and income of small farms through crop-livestock-fish integration, agro-processing, value addition and biomass utilization must be a high priority. • As far as possible, prime farmland must be conserved for agriculture and should not be diverted for non-agricultural purposes and for programmes. • Every State should constitute a Land Zonation Team consisting of soil scientists, agronomists and remote sensing specialists to earmark soils with a low biological potential for farming such as wastelands, lands affected by salinity, etc., for industrial activities and construction.
Soil Conservation • Programmes promoting Rainfed Farming Systems should have a built in component of improving soil organic matter. The current efforts at promoting vermi-culture have a very narrow focus and limited scope. • Composting methods with high biomass-to-dung ratio should be targeted to overcome the limitation of availability of dung. • A regular subsidised transport (preferably through bullock carts) for manures to the distant rain-fed lands should be provided. There is scope for integrating this service with NREGS. • Provision of a power operated biomass-shredder as a common utility at the village level would help in cutting the biomass for faster decomposition in manure pits. Such a facility would also increase the fodder supply many fold by reducing wastage and chaffing the hard stumps.
Soil Conservation • Biomass production is the essential link between livestock and livelihoods. Biomass intensification should be at the core of watershed programme. The following are the policy requirements: • Plantations in rain-fed areas – in the forest land or in commons should be livestock oriented. Mono-plantations of non-browsable tree plantations would cause enormous damage to the rainfed production systems. • Local mechanisms for vesting user rights to communities to manage and use common lands & streamlining procedures. Excellent examples are established by Foundation for Ecological Security across the country in this regard.
Soil Conservation • Intensification of multi-purpose biomass in various places like stream banks, road sides, field bunds etc., should be promoted in addition to block plantations in common and private lands. • Intensification of biomass used by small ruminants should also be prioritized. • Support for watch and ward and initial watering be ensured till the biomass is properly established as lack of such provisions had resulted in poor survival in watersheds.
Soil Conservation • Many traditional sustainable practices in soil health management have become out of practice as the labour costs increased. Labour based support systems would be the necessary corrective measures and provide stimulus to the rain-fed agriculture economy. • The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act provides a unique opportunity in this regard. Extending labour subsidies for sustainable practices in Rain-fed Farming also serves the cause of guaranteeing employment as it opens up a wide array of productive work opportunities for people who are desperately in need of employment but cannot do manual earthwork.