Soil Testing: Enabling a Sustainable Agricultural Production System
Need for Soil Testing
Fertilization of a crop constitutes 10–15% of the costs of agricultural inputs and increases productivity of the crop by approximately 50%. Fertilizer is used to meet the basic nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium etc.) in the soil and the time, method of application and amount of fertilizer used is very crucial to avoid the aggravation of soil acidity, imbalance in nutrient supplying capacity of the soil, decline in soil biodiversity, and aggravation in soil salinity in marginal and degraded lands.Data such as climate and weather conditions, soil characteristics and product types are important in determining the appropriate fertilization time.
Farmers are using more chemical input to meet the increasing demand of the Indian population. However, this is leading to the pollution of agricultural and soil resources by chemical residues and in turn negatively affecting the production potential of the land.Sustainable agriculture focuses on increasing the productivity of the soil and reducing the harmful effects of agricultural practices on climate, soil, water and environment.
The Government of India introduced the Soil Health Card Scheme in the year 2014-15. The scheme aimed to increase awareness among farmers about the status of their soil. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) also recommends a soil-test based integrated nutrient management approach, which includes both organic and inorganic nutrient sources.
A proper soil test will help ensure the application of adequate fertilizer to meet the requirements of the crop while taking advantage of the nutrients already present in the soil. It will also allow farmers to diagnose problem areas.
Dvara E-Registry’s Soil Testing system
In recent years, many farmers have begun to consult data about essential variables like soil, crops, livestock, and weather. Yet fewhaveaccess to advanced digital tools that would help to turn this data into valuable, actionable insights.
Dvara E-Registry (DER) has recentlyimplemented a Soil Testing system for its affiliated Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), which benefits smallholder farmers. DER is working with a hypothesis that “Healthy soil is the foundation of a healthy crop and healthy farm.” Soil testing helps in assessing the fertility and nutrient status of soil for providing an index of nutrient availability or supply in eacharea.
It is a farm management tool which leads to more informed fertilizer decisionswith a potential benefit to the farmer of increased yields, reduced operating costs and superior environmental risk management and it also includes improved crop maturity and quality, higher tolerance to disease and pest damage, and increased growth.
Both FPOs and farmers will benefit from soil testing since farmers will only purchase nutrients that their soil lacks. Additionally, the process will help in recognizing crop compatibility and making better sowing decisions. DER through its respective FPOs have providedsoil testing facilities for over 283 farmers across 5 states.
A detailed module has been prepared toeducate the farmer and the extended community on the many benefits of Soil Testing. During various community meetings, farmers are briefed on the following benefits:
Though still in the nascent stage, the resultssoil testing offered by Dvara E-Registry has been positive. Following are some of the testimonials from farmers:
“I had to travel to Barwani to get my soil tested, and it took two to three weeks to receive the results. I can now test my soil in one hour using the soil testing equipment at my FPO. I have my soil test report, and I will use the fertilizers recommended in the study while planting my next crop. I’m hoping it will significantly raise my crop productivity and soil health.” – Narayan Patidar, Borlei, Barwani, Madhya Pradesh
“For farmers in Manipur, this testing of soil before season is a new concept, I am hopeful that it will increase mine and other farmer’s harvest in my village.” – Y.Thawailemba Meitei, Langmeidong, Kakching, Manipur
“Every farmer who wants to take part in the upcoming agricultural revolution must first test their soil. With cuttingedge soil testing technology, DER offers farmers a faster service without sacrificing accuracy. Farmers in our FPOs will save time and boost their agricultural profits thanks to technology offered by DER.” – Prakash M Chavan, CEO- Lok Unnati Krish-E Farmer Producer Company Limited, Anjangaon, Amravati, Maharashtra