Soil health can be determined by various physical, chemical and biological indicators. These include percentage of organic carbon, macro- and micro-nutrients, and micro- and macro-organisms present in the soil; its bulk density; water holding capacity; pH; and electrical conductivity.
In 2014–15, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare initiated the Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme as part of the National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture. The scheme involved large-scale testing of soil health parameters and disbursement of soil health cards to farmers. Overall, about 5.27 crore soil samples have been tested as part of Cycle 1 from 2015–16 to 2016–17 and Cycle 2 from 2017–18 to 2018–19. In addition, about 19.64 lakh tests have also been conducted as part of the Model Villages Programme.
In 2019, India was the second highest producer and consumer of chemical fertilizers in the world. In 2020–21, the chemical fertilizer consumption in India, excluding single super phosphate (SSP), was 62.98 million tonnes, with a growth of more than 82.5 per cent since 2000–01. Per hectare, fertilizer consumption for 2020–21 stands at 161 kg, with a growth of 75 per cent since 2000–01. More than 50 per cent of the chemical fertilizers consumed in India are in the form of urea.
Concerns related to use of chemical fertilizers have led to a desperate search for alternative non-chemical options. These include bio-fertilizers and organic fertilizers. These non-chemical options are considered critical to the transition from chemical-based to sustainable farming practices like organic and natural farming. Availability of cost-effective quality bio-fertilizers and organic fertilizers is, therefore, of utmost importance.
Several barriers have been identified in more widespread use of bio-fertilizers and organic fertilizers. These are mostly related to funding, subsidies and support for promotion of bio-fertilizers and organic fertilizers; quality control; and data collection and reporting.
A targeted, ambitious and well-funded nationwide programme is needed to drive the change towards organic and natural farming.
This data story aims to highlight the findings from the Soil Health Card scheme about the state of India’s Soil.
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