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Posted at: Oct 29, 2018, 12:45 AM; last updated: Oct 29, 2018, 12:45 AM (IST)

Soil fortification

Punjab has been using fertilisers in excess to the recommended dosage, which has increased the chemical load in the soil, says KS Pannu
Soil fortification

The soil health card scheme, started by the Centre in February, 2015, aims to conduct chemical analysis of farm land and issue soil health cards in every 3 years to all farmers of the country. This provides vital data with regard to nutrient deficiencies in the soil and prompts farmers for judicious use of fertiliser. 

The target of soil sample collection has been fixed on the basis of grid system and farmers' holding. According to the grid system, one representative sample has to be drawn from an area of 6.25 acre under irrigated conditions and an area of 25 acre under rainfed conditions. In addition, every farm operation holding is to be issued a separate soil health card. 

Farmers in Punjab grow cotton, sugarcane, fodder, oil seeds and pulses in addition to wheat-paddy cycle. It is worthwhile to mention here that more than 98 per cent area in Punjab is irrigated. Accordingly, target of collection of 8,35,526 soil samples and issuance of 12,51,726 soil health cards has been fixed. Two cycles of the soil health card scheme in Punjab have been undertaken.

The first cycle started from May 2015 with a target of 8,35,526 samples. All targeted soil samples have been collected and analysed and 12,51,726 soil health cards have already been issued to the beneficiary farmers. 

The second cycle started from May 2017 with the collection and testing target of 8,35,526 soil samples and the issuance of 10,52,554 soil health cards for 2017-18 and 2018-19. This cycle is expected to be completed by March 31, 2019. 

In the first window of Cycle-II (after Rabi crop harvest), 4.80 lakh soil samples were collected and the work of testing and soil health card printing and uploading of data on soil health card portal has been started. The same will be completed by December 31, 2018.

Balance work of collection will be completed in the second window of samples collection after harvest of the Kharif 2018 crop and testing, issuance of health cards and uploading of data on portal will be done by March 31, 2019.

It is pertinent to mention here that Punjab has net sown area of 39.66 lakh hectares. Consumption of urea in Punjab is about 26 lakh MT and consumption of DAP fertiliser is about 8 lakh MT in the both seasons. The per acre consumption of fertilisers in Punjab is the highest in the Country. The farmers have been using fertilisers in excess of the dosage recommended by Punjab Agricultural University. 

The Department of Agriculture, Punjab had launched a massive campaign this Kharif season (2018) for balanced use of fertilisers in paddy crop. As a result the consumption of urea has reduced by 1 lakh metric tonnes (9 per cent) and consumption of DAP has reduced by 46 thousand tonnes (16 per cent). This is a net saving of about Rs 200 crore to farmers, besides reducing the chemical load on the soil.

After the completion of the second cycle of sample analysis, the state will issue soil health cards to the farmers. In addition the block wise and village wise soil fertility maps will be prepared on the basis of analysis reports. These maps will help the agriculture extension agencies to identify the deficiency of a particular nutrient in a particular area and will assist in formulating strategies for taking corrective steps. Resultantly campaigns will be launched by the Department of Agriculture to motivate the farmers to use fertilisers on the basis of recommendations mentioned in the card. These campaigns shall motivate the farmers for judicious use of fertilisers, which ultimately will leads to decline in chemical load in farm soil and shall help to reduce the cost of crop cultivation. This is also one of the agenda of the 'Mission Tandrust Punjab'.

— The writer is Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Punjab

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