You’ve heard of soil erosion. But, have you heard of how much good soil we lose every year?
Farmers can lose up to 2 inches of cultivable soil in 40 years that Mother Nature takes up to 2000 years to rebuild!
Healthy soil – as ordinary as it may sound, is the most undervalued component of food production. A balanced composition of nutrients, micronutrients, organic matters, soluble salts and a suitable degree of soil pH make the difference between fertile and infertile soil.
And this precious, nutrient-rich soil needs to be conserved.
To understand soil health, it is important to test it regularly for nutrients. This helps growers sort out nutrient deficient areas from non-deficient ones. Soil testing helps farmers prioritize and optimize fertilizer application and focus on the most efficient ways of using soil as a resource for their crops.
Timing is everything.
Nutrient content in the soil can change rapidly, hence the quality of soil needs to be tested every four years. To track the fertility and pH changes over time, testing should be repeated for the same sample of soil at the same time of the year. Since soil is inherently variable, the more the samples per unit area, the more representative the soil test results will be.
Soil is a powerhouse of nutrients.
Plants require macronutrients in large amounts. Healthy soil provides nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, calcium and magnesium. Soil is also tested for organic matter, soil pH, soluble salts and other micronutrients. Crops typically grow best when pH is between 6 (slightly acidic) and 7.5 (slightly alkaline). If the pH level is slightly off this metric, nutrient availability may be hindered. In the case of acidic soil, a buffer pH test determines lime requirements to increase the soil pH to a desirable level. By mixing a buffer solution, with a known pH, to soil, the change in pH is determined, thus helping to understand the amount of lime needed to increase the soil pH. Depending on the change in the pH level, either a lower or higher lime quantity is recommended.
Soil is a protector of crops.
The yield potential of a crop is directly linked to the capacity of the soil to supply plant nutrients in adequate amount to ensure optimum growth. Like humans, when plants don’t get their food in the form of nutrients, they suffer from deficiencies. Many times, based on soil test reports, early warnings can be generated for nutrient deficiencies, thus taking up necessary mitigating measures.
Soil has a health card, too.
To make agriculture more productive, sustainable and climate resilient, the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Govt of India, has taken a very important step. For soil, NMSA introduced Soil Health Management (SHM) for promoting Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) through judicious use of fertilizers along with micronutrients for improving soil health and its productivity. This website provides progress reports across all states! And the results are remarkable.
Conserve. Conserve. Conserve.
With a resource that is so crucial to food production, we must make soil conservation a priority. In more ways than one, soil is literally and proverbially the foundation of our food.