To create awareness about the importance of soil, each year December 5 is marked as 'World Soil Day'.
For this day, Hindustan Times interacted with experts from the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) on Thursday to find out how farmers can keep a tab on soil quality of their fields and various do's and don'ts.
The most common and worrying fact that they highlighted is that due to very high crop intensification in the state, soil quality is deteriorating. Very few farmers get their soil quality checked as suggested by the state government and the PAU.
“As per our records and surveys, crop intensity in the state is about 191%. In other words, one or the other crop is continuously grown one after the other. There is no way fields are let free by the farmers even for few weeks. In this process, essential nutrients of soil that ensure fertility keep declining.
This further declines the productivity of crops and of course, the quality,” said additional director of research JS Dhiman. He also revealed that if this goes unchecked and unabated, state's objective of attaining 'sustainable agriculture' may not be achieved.
Department head of soil science HK Thind said, “Ever since the PAU's inception, service of soil testing is being offered to farmers. To ensure proper and balanced soil quality, it is vital to get soil tested after every three years. Be it soil of an orchard or a regular field, it is a must, otherwise in the long run many losses can be faced by the farmers, including decline in productivity.”
On being asked about the role of fertilisers to upkeep soil health, he said fertilisers do play an active role to boost soil health, but most farmers are not aware about its right and efficient use.
“Fertilisers are used in excess, which can spoil health of soil, rather than benefitting it. Instead of artificial fertilisers, eco-friendly or natural fertilisers should be used. For instance, residue of biogas plants, which mainly comprises cattle dung and stubble, can be used as a natural fertiliser in all kinds of fields. However, before we start with fertilisers, soil testing is a must as through test reports; farmers can know what essential nutrients the soil is lacking from and accordingly, right fertilisers can be used for the field.”
Assistant soil chemist Bharpoor Singh Sekhon said, “Why are natural ingredients for improving soil health ignored? Why are we dependent on artificial imported raw materials? Instead of disposing of cow dung and urine in village ponds, it should be restored as they are rich in nutrients, especially phosphorus that enriches soil health. Secondly, farmers should focus on diversification of crops. Rather than focusing on rice and wheat, farmers should also grow various kinds of legumes as roots of legumes can naturally generate nitrogen in the soil, an essential nutrient to make soil healthy.”
Agriculture director of the state Mangal Singh Sandhu said, “He along with his team is trying his best to popularise soil testing concept in every village of the state.”
Soil testing in a nutshell:
· PAU provides soil testing on nominal charges (`20), for which report and 'soil card' is issued to the farmers on state's recommendation.
· Report gets ready within a week, experts say that collect soil for testing from various nooks of the field for proper result.
· Village pond water must be used as it has many nutrients for enriching the soil.
· Crop diversification is a must, especially legumes as they release nitrogen in soil.