Five Years Of Soil Health Card Scheme
- The Central government’s flagship programme - Soil Health Card Scheme completed 5 years of its implementation.
Soil Health Card Scheme (Swasth Dhara Khet Hara)
- The International year of soils was celebrated in 2015 and the same year India’s unique programme of ‘Soil Health Card’ was launched on February 19, 2015, from Suratgarh (Rajasthan) to assess the nutrient status of every farm holding in the country.
- The scheme is promoted by the Department of Agriculture & Co-operation under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare. It is being implemented through the Department of Agriculture of all the State and Union Territory Governments.
- Punjab became the first state in India to issue Soil Health Cards (SHCs) to its farmers in May, 2015
Objective of the Programme
- To issue soil health cards to farmers every 2 years so as to provide a basis to address nutritional deficiencies in fertilization practises.
- To diagnose soil fertility related constraints with standardized procedures for sampling uniformly across states.
- To develop and promote soil test based nutrient management in the districts for enhancing nutrient use efficiency.
- To strengthen functioning of Soil Testing Laboratories (STLs) through capacity building
- Due to rapid industrialization & urbanization, over exploitation of natural resources, excessive use of agro-chemicals, unauthorized cutting of forest, intensive & extensive cultivation, intensive cropping pattern, high yielding varieties of crops and increased use of high analysis chemically pure fertilizers, etc., soil fertility is depleting at an alarming rate, across the country.
- Soil Health Card is field-specific detailed report of soil fertility status and other important soil parameters that affect crop productivity.
- Details in a Soil Health Card-
- Information regarding soil fertility
- Dosage of fertilizer application in crops
- Information on soil amendments of saline or alkaline soil
- Recommendation on integrated nutrient management
- Soil Test Laboratory (STL): It provides the status of soil with respect to 12 parameters:
- Macro nutrients – Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium
- Secondary nutrient – Sulphur, Calcium
- Micro nutrients – Zinc, Ferrous, Manganese, Copper
- Physical parameters – pH, electrical conductivity (EC) and organic carbon (OC)
- Soil samples are being 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.
- Based on this, the SHC provides information to farmers on nutrient status of their soil along with recommendation on appropriate dosage of nutrients to be applied for improving soil health and its fertility.
- SHC provides two sets of fertilizer recommendations for six crops including recommendations of organic manures. Farmers can also get recommendations for additional crops on demand. SHC portal has farmers’ database of both the cycles and is available in 21 languages for the benefit of the farmers.
- SHC will ensure that farmers do not spend money unnecessarily on purchase of fertilizers by adding more than required and will help in restoring the degraded status of soil profile across the country.
- According to a study conducted by the National Productivity Council (NPC), the overall impact of the scheme has been positive, leading to maximisation and sustainable growth at farm level by cost minimisation and through efficient utilisation of resources.
- Application of fertilisers as per the recommendation of SHC led to savings in nitrogen fertilisers like urea thereby reduction in cost of cultivation. For example, Paddy- the cost of cultivation has been reduced by 16-25% and savings of nitrogen is found to be around 20kg/acre.
- Savings on fertilisers and increase in production also resulted in increased income to the farmers. For example, Paddy: Increase in income around Rs.4500/- per acre.
- Judicious use of fertilisers also resulted in increased production of crops. For example, increase in production 10 - 20 % in paddy, 10 -15 % in wheat and jowar.
- The scheme is lagging behind due to gaps in manpower, both technical and non-technical staff, for collecting soil samples and thereafter testing them in labs.
- No uniform norms are followed in the country for soil analysis and distribution of soil health cards. Farmers often complain irregularity in soil sample collection and the soil test values are not representative of their fields.
- States are responsible in some cases for poor implementation; Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal didn’t have coherence and coordination with the policies of the Central Government, they didn’t release ample funds for the project and hence poor facilities like lack of STLs and unfilled vacancies in labs.
- In addition, many farmers are unable to understand the content, hence unable to follow the recommended practices.
- Through Soil Health Card Scheme, the Government is promoting integrated nutrient management (INM)e. balanced and judicious use of chemical fertilizers, along with bio-fertilizers and locally available organic manures based on soil testing to maintain soil health and crop productivity.
- This, in turn, ushering a new era of healthy soil management, leading closer achieving the goal of ‘Doubling the Farmer’s Income’ as well sustainable development across the country.