Gender as growth driver, Keeping the soil healthy is a challenge Current Affairs 28th July, 2017

Gender as growth driver, Keeping the soil healthy is a challenge Current Affairs 28th July, 2017

If we do not take this disturbing trend into account and start acting now, our country might be saddled with vast swathes of land rendered infertile.

What causes soil fertility loss?

  • Apart from natural factors such as floods, volcanoes and earthquakes, a number of human-induced factors such as deforestation, ill management of industrial wastes, overgrazing by cattle, and urban expansion, are also responsible for the loss of soil’s productive capacity.
  • Widespread land degradation caused by inappropriate agricultural practices has a direct and adverse impact on the food and livelihood security of farmers.
  • Inappropriate agricultural practices that contribute to this include excessive tillage, frequent cropping, poor irrigation and water management, and unscientific rotation of crops.
  • Decline in soil organic matter causes limited soil life and poor soil structure.

The way forward:

  • Experts say one of the main ways forward is to make agriculture more sustainable and revive the age-old practices of soil regeneration, while balancing the same with judicious use of agrochemicals.
  • The agrochemical industry must also rise to the occasion and invest in producing organic biological products that help improve the health of Indian soil.
  • Organic matter plays a key role in maintaining soil fertility by holding nitrogen and sulphur in organic forms and other essential nutrients such as potassium and calcium. The loss of organic matter is accelerated by frequent tillage.

Organic carbon’s an enabler

  • Soil organic carbon plays a key role in maintaining soil fertility by holding nitrogen, phosphorous and a range of other nutrients for plant growth, holding soil particles together as stable aggregates improving soil properties such as water-holding capacity and providing gaseous exchange and root growth, playing an important role as food source for soil fauna and flora and even suppressing crop diseases, and acting as a buffer against toxic and harmful substances such as sorption of toxins and heavy metals.
  • As a result of human activities releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the carbon pool in the atmosphere has increased and the elevated carbon dioxide is considered to be a contributory factor to the danger of global warming and climate change.
  • Soil organic carbon is the largest component of the terrestrial carbon pools, approximately twice the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and in vegetation. If more carbon is stored in the soil as organic carbon, it will reduce the amount present in the atmosphere, and therefore help to alleviate the problem of global warming and climate change.
  • Therefore, in order to ensure that India’s growing foodgrain needs are met while at the same time soil health and fertility are nurtured and improved, it is important to focus on biological products to improve soil health, propagating the judicious use of agrochemicals, reducing excessive dependence on fertilisers and pesticides while also reviving practices such as intelligent crop rotation.

Enhancing sustainable food production through improved soil health is not just the job of the Government and cultivators. The agrochemical industry also has a responsibility to invest with renewed vigour in biological products that can rejuvenate soil health organically.

At the same time the need of the hour is to educate farmers about what they can do to improve the health of their nutrient-depleted soil by following practices such as crop rotation, and using organic manure boosters such as cow dung and dried leaves.

It is also pertinent to educate them about the judicious use of agrochemicals and attain a fine balance between chemical and organic products — both of which are critical to India’s food sustainability goals.

Connecting the dots:

  • Discuss the challenges being faced by the agricultural sector in the area of foodgrain production. What measures should be taken to address these challenges? Examine.
  • ”Even though Indian farmers achieve record food grain production year after year the fruits of agriculture may not be as sweet as it should be”. In the above context Critically examine the state of Indian agriculture and issues associated with it.

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