Proposal for setting up Agricultural field Soil Testing Laboratory and Consulting Unit in Rural Area

There has been an impressive growth in the consumption of fertilizers in post green revolution period. However, their reckless and indiscriminate use has been the prime reason for declining productivity in recent years. Investigations have revealed that one reason for the unbalanced fertilizer use is lack of adequate soil testing facilities which forced the farmers to rely on misuse/overuse on fertilizer application. Further, reason for low agricultural productivity is the decline in organic matter content of soil and lack of awareness on the latest technologies and lack of suitable advisory and diagnostic services. The adoption of suitable crop production techniques and soil test based nutrient recommendation will pave way for enhanced crop productivity. The research / extension must be focused on testing of nutrients in organic fertilizers (bio-inputs). Identification of microbes and their population in various soil conditions and study for their utilization in increasing the productivity of Indian soils.

The unbalanced fertilizer use observed in recent years is due to lack of adequate soil testing and advisory services/ facilities that forced the farmers to rely on fertilizer dealers advice on the fertilizer requirement. In view of this, the Government of India has launched a massive campaign for promotion of Soil testing and Health Cards among farmers. Further, they haves proposed for setting up of Soil Testing Labs and Bio-pesticides / biofertiliser Production Units in rural areas. They are also willing to support this program. The Soil Testing Labs to be promoted are required to facilitate the quick issuance of Soil Health Cards.

Soil Health Management (SHM) is one of the most important component under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA). SHM aims at promoting location as well as crop specific sustainable soil health management, creating and linking soil fertility maps with macro-micro nutrient management, judicious application of fertilizers and organic farming practices. Under SHM, establishment of soil testing labs is one of the item to be mainly located at district / block level. Therefore, village level soil testing facility established with the objective of better and healthy agricultural yield, employment generation for rural youth will also improve time frame of for analysis of soil samples.

Constraints in functioning of existing Soil Testing Laboratories (STLs)

In spite of the proven benefits of the soil testing service for farmers, the existing service is suffering on financial, management and technical fronts. Receipt of large number of samples by each of the STLs makes it difficult for them to analyze and send the reports in time to the farmers. This may be one of the reasons for lack of required success in the program, as time taken between collections of samples and sending the recommendations to the farmers is too long. In other words, it can be stated that the huge network of STLs has not yet rendered the services of a watchdog for monitoring the soil health under major cropping systems in the country.

The scheme has the following objectives:-

  1. Undertake soil testing.
  2. Provide recommendation on fertilizer application including bio-fertilizers.
  3. Provide guidance on soil reclamation and related matters.
  4. Identification of microbes in soils managed under various conditions.
  5. Testing of herbals & organic pesticides.
  6. To improve timeliness in analysis of soil samples.
  7. Introduction of the Single Window approach from collection to issue of SHC so as to minimize delays and maximize convenience to farmers, and Online delivery of soil health cards to the farmers using Soil Health Card Portal.
  8. It will advice on balanced and judicious use of plant nutrients.
  9. Produce and provide jaivik krishi products like bio pesticides, bio fertilizers etc.

Need for new Soil Testing Laboratories at Block Level
There is a need to organize soil testing laboratories at block level, so that farmers need not travel far to get the soil tested and wait endlessly to get the results and recommendations.  Although annual installed analyzing capacity of soil samples at STLs is growing at the annual growth rate of 11%, the analyzing capacity per 1000 ha of Gross Cultivated Area (GCA) has not been doubled during the last 20 years. The utilization efficiency of STLs has drastically reduced in all the regions. It also highlights that the need for intensive soil tests for developing specific nutrient management scenarios/strategies are at more desegregated level in all the regions. Thus, it reveals that the creation or establishment of new STLs in the country at each block level is essential to cater to the needs of the farming community.

Though there is enormous scope for the project, lack of awareness among farmers on the importance of soil test based fertilizer use limit the commercial scope. A laboratory with a capacity to test 800 samples per month will be adequate to cater to a few villages in one block. The scientist manning the unit could also engage in providing guidance in the areas of land reclamation, compost making, use of bio-fertilizer etc.