The Government of India had launched the Soil Health Card Scheme on 19th February 2015. Farmers will be issued soil health cards under this scheme, which will fetch crop-wise recommendations of nutrients and fertilizers required for the individual farms to help farmers to improve productivity through judicious use of inputs. All the tests will be carried out in soil testing labs where the strengths and weaknesses of the soil will be analyzed by experts and farmers will be informed regarding the measures to be taken to deal with it. The result and suggestion will be displayed in the cards. The government plans to issue the cards to 14 crore farmers.
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Aim of the Soil Health Card scheme:
Is to promote soil testing and balanced use of fertilizers to enable farmers to realize higher yields at lower cost.
Budget of the scheme:
An amount of ₹568 crore was allocated by the government for the scheme. In the 2016 Union budget of India, ₹100 crore has been allocated to states for making soil health cards and setting up labs.
As of July 2015, only 34 lakh Soil Health Cards (SHC) were issued to farmers as against a target of 84 lakh for the year 2015–16.The number grew up to 1.12 crore by February 2016. As of February 2016, against the target of 104 lakh soil samples, States reported a collection of 81 lakh soil samples and tested 52 lakh samples. As of May 2017, 725 lakh Soil Health Cards have been distributed to the farmers.
Objectives of Soil Health Card Scheme:
- To improve soil quality and profitability of farmers
- Employment generation for rural youth
- To update information on soil analysis
- To provide soil testing facilities to farmers at their doorstep
What is Soil Health Card?
- Soil health card is a field-specific detailed report of soil fertility status and other important soil parameters that affect crop productivity.
- SHC is a printed report which contains nutrient status of soil with respect to 12 nutrients: pH, Electrical Conductivity (EC), Organic Carbon (OC), Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Sulphur (S), Zinc (Zn), Boron (B), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Copper (Cu) of farm holdings.
- The cropped area was divided into grids of 10 ha for rainfed and 2.5 ha for irrigated and taken only one soil sample from each grid and test results will be distributed to all the farmers whose area was falling under the grid.
- The State Government will collect samples through the staff of their Department of Agriculture or through the staff of an outsourced agency. The State Government may also involve the students of local Agriculture/Science Colleges.
- Soil Samples are collected generally two times in a year, after harvesting of Rabi and Kharif Crop respectively or when there is no standing crop in the field.
Benefits of Soil Health Card:
- SHC helps farmers to improve soil health and ultimately increase productivity.
- After getting SHC farmers have reduced N, P and K use, especially nitrogen use and increased micronutrients use which helped them to increase fertility.
- It has helped farmers to diversify towards less input-intensive crops from more input-intensive crops like paddy and cotton.
- It has also helped farmers to find input substitutions.
- It has helped in the formulation of specific schemes like subsidised micronutrients from governments.
Drawbacks of Soil Health Card:
- Many farmers are unable to understand the content, hence unable to follow the recommended practices.
- Number of soil samples per unit area are not based on soil variability.
- Lack of Coordination among agricultural extension officers and farmers.
- Microbial activity, moisture retention activity are essential but missing in SHC.
- The soil health card is more focused on chemical nutrient indicators; among physical and biological properties only soil color is included.
- Some important indicators which are not included in the soil health card (SHC) are
- Copping history
- Water resources (soil moisture)
- Slope of soil
- Depth of soil
- Color of soil
- Soil texture (bulk density)
- Micro-biological activity etc are not included.
- Inadequate soil testing infrastructure.
Steps to be undertaken to overcome the above mentioned drawbacks:
- There is a need for demonstration of benefits of SHC on an experimental basis in each block by adopting a comprehensive approach (systematic and scientific analysis of soil and water) and adoption of recommended doses.
- A specialized body is needed both at central as well as at state level for the management of soils. They should be given responsibility for monitoring the quality of service by various agencies. This also provides continuity of the work by the department.
- SHC distribution and awareness campaigns need to be arranged before sowing season, so that farmers will practice recommended crop choice and fertilizers.