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MAJOR ISSUES IN SOIL HEALTH MANAGEMENT. Dr. Ramesh Kumar Deputy Commissioner (INM) Department of Agriculture and Cooperation Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India, New Delhi. INTRODUCTION. Agriculture is the mainstay of the Indian economy.

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major issues in soil health management


Dr. Ramesh Kumar

Deputy Commissioner (INM)

Department of Agriculture and Cooperation

Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India, New Delhi

  • Agriculture is the mainstay of the Indian economy.
  • Two thirds of the Indian population depends on it.
  • India’s population is expected to be 1.4 billion by the year 2025.
  • 300 million tonnes of food grains will be required by 2025.
  • Current food grain production around 241.0 million tonnes
  • India need to raise its foodgrains targets at a rate of more than 4 million tonnes per annum.
  • Scope for increase in area under cultivation is negligible
  • Agriculture production can only be achieved through efficient use of resources and by improving soil fertility
food grain production and fertiliser use in india
Food grain production and fertiliser use in India
  • Food grain production level during last few years hovering around 210-240 mt
  • Stagnation in productivity a matter of great concern as the target of 300 mt by 2025 may not be achieved
  • To sustain the production system, efficient use of the resources is inevitable
challenges facing indian agriculture
Challenges Facing Indian Agriculture
  • Depleting soil organic matter
  • Imbalance in fertiliser use
  • Emerging multi-nutrient deficiencies particularly of secondary and micronutrients
  • Declining nutrient use efficiency
  • Declining crop response ratio
  • Negative soil nutrient balance
  • Stagnation / slow growth in food grain productivity
periodic change in organic carbon status of soil in haryana and punjab
Periodic change in organic carbon status of soil in Haryana and Punjab



  • Reasons-
  • Residue management
  • Retarded rate of C oxidation & decomposition in submerged soils in paddy

Source- HAU website

Source- Benbi & Brar, 2008


Processes leading to decline in soil organic matter content

  • Residue removal for fodder and fuel
  • Burning of crop residues
  • Excessive grazing, and using dung for fuel
  • Accelerated erosion, desertification, and soil degradation

Management practices for soil carbon sequestration

  • Green manuring
  • Conservation tillage
  • Afforestation/ agroforestry
  • Grazing management
  • Integrated nutrient management
  • Diverse cropping systems/Diversification

About 336 million tonnes of crop residues are produced per year which can supply about 5.1 million tonnes of K in addition to organic matter.

imbalanced fertilizer use evidenced by wider fertilizer consumption ratios
Imbalanced fertilizer use evidenced by wider fertilizer consumption ratios

Balanced fertilisation beyond NPK- - - ?


S, Zn, B……


The K balance of Punjab, Haryana and other Northern Indian states appears to be worst in the country as the K consumption is very low.

  • It is a matter of great concern that how long soil K reserves could sustain present level of crop productivity
  • ThinkBalanced fertilisation beyond NPK- - - ?
  • ----
  • S, Zn, B……
status of micro and secondary nutrients
Status of Micro and Secondary Nutrients

Deficiencies of S, Zn and B has become critical

sulphur deficiency in indian soils
Sulphur Deficiency in Indian Soils
  • The deficiencies are widespread covering 40- 45%
  • districts and occurrence more in the southern region.
  • Negative balance to the tune of 1mt/annum.


• Application of 5 kg Zn/ha is sufficient on alluvial, red and

laterite soils.

• 10 kg Zn/ha is optimum on Vertisols.

• 1-1.5 kg B/ha to alternate crops for oilseed based cropping


• Regular application of FYM 8-10 t/ha can control

micronutrient deficiencies.

• When 4-5 t/ha FYM is applied, Zn rate can be reduced by



Basal application of micronutrients is found

  • more efficient than top dressing.
  • Liquid fertilizers can be used for fertigation in
  • drip irrigation.
  • 2-4 sprays of 0.5% micronutrient solutions
  • (Zn, Fe, Mn) can effectively control deficiencies
  • on standing crops.

Low nutrient use efficiency

  • The loss of N through leaching and volatilization creates pollution and has environmental implications.
  • P & K fertilisers are imported. Skewed distribution of resources in world. Limitted supply. Affect/ destabilise prices in International market. Need to increase efficiency.

Negative soil nutrient balance


Mining of nutrients from soil


soil nutrient balance sheet
Soil nutrient balance sheet
  • Increased mining of soil potassium a cause of more rampant decline in rice yields compared to wheat in IGP (data from 24 research stations)
  • Source : Tandon (2004)
declining crop response to fertilisers
Declining crop response to fertilisers
  • Reasons:
  • Inadequate and imbalanced fertiliser use
  • Increasing multi-nutrient deficiency
  • Lack of farmers awareness about balanced plant nutrition
  • Lack of varietal breakthrough
  • Poor crop management (Excess fertiliser dose not be the substitute of poor management)

Declining Soil Health – A Cause of Concern

  • Managing soil health a formidable challenge to ensure productivity, profitability and national food security.
  • The United Nations Millennium Development Task Force on hunger made Soil Health Enhancement as one of the five recommendations for increasing agricultural productivity and fight hunger in India.
nutrient management options available

Nutrient Management OptionsAvailable

•Integrated Nutrient Management

• Balanced Fertilization through Inorganic


Fortified and Coated Fertilisers

Customised and 100% Water soluble fertilisers

• Soil Test Based Fertilizer Recommendations

• Improved Nutrient Management Practices

integrated nutrient management inm panacea for soil health and productivity
Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) – Panacea for soil health and productivity

Integrated nutrient management (INM) aims at achieving efficient use of chemical fertilizers in conjunction with organic manures and biofertilizers and improves soil health, crop yields and profitability

Need to augment supplies of organic manures, fortified, coated & customized fertilizers supplying secondary and micronutrients, biofertilizers and soil amendments to have INM on a sound footing.


Effect of green manuring on yield of paddy and its residual effect on wheat

Source- Sharma et al, 2009


Changes in soil organic C through integrated nutrient

management for 20 years in some soils in the IGP

Adapted from Nambiar (1995) and Swarup et al. (1998)

Effect of INM on available micronutrients (mg/kg) in soils after 25 years of continuous rice-wheat -cowpea fodder cropping

Source- Ram (1998)

enhancing availability of organic manures
Enhancing availability of organic manures
  • Recycling and composting/ vermi composting of urban, animal and agro industrial waste
  • About 57MT of urban solid waste generated per annum with potential to supply 8MT of good quality compost.
  • Present availability 383 mt against the moderate requirement of 900 mt / annum (@5 t / ha on gross cropped area of 185 mha).

Fertilisers policy was modified to create an environment to motivate industry towards development of new products based on soil and crop requirement.

  • Specialty fertilizers like fortified fertilizers with appropriate grades of secondary and micronutrients, customized fertilizers and 100% water soluble fertilizers are approved by Government and incorporated in Fertilizer Control Order (FCO), 1985.
some of the initiatives taken by govt of india

Some of the initiatives taken by Govt of India

To increase the use and availability of SSP (16% P2O5, 11% S) as an alternative source of P, the GOI modified its specifications

Phospogypsum, a by-product of fertilizer industry containing 16% S and 21%Ca, a potential source of S and Ca has been incorporated in FCO. About 7MT of phosphogypsum generated per annum has a potential to supply 1 mt of S and 1.4 mt of Ca

The neem coated urea , a slow release fertilizer was included under Schedule- I Part –A of the Fertilizer Control Order.

To encourage the balanced fertilizer use, the basket of complex fertilizers is broadened and some new complex fertilisers have been incorporated in FCO

i promoting fortified and coated fertilizers
I. Promoting fortified and coated fertilizers
  • To correct the widespread deficiencies of secondary and micronutrients in Indian soils fortified and coated fertilisers with these nutrients were included in FCO
  • To promote these fertilizers on large scale, the manufacturers are allowed to sell all the FCO-approved fortified/coated fertilizers at a price upto 5% higher than the MRP of the subsidised fertilizer, except zincated urea and boronated SSP which has been made upto 10% above MRP.
  • 9 fortified fertilizers have been notified in FCO, 1985.
ii promoting customised fertilizers
II. Promoting Customised fertilizers
  • The objective of the customised fertilizer is to promote site specific nutrient management so as to achieve the maximum fertilizer use efficiency/applied nutrient in a cost effective manner.
  • The Government of India has made special provision in the fertilizer Control Order, 1985 under clause 20 ‘B’ to notify such grades.
  • Thirty six customised fertilizer grades have been notified in FCO, 1985 so far.
iii promoting bio fertilizers
III. Promoting Bio-fertilizers
  • Biofertilisers are not the replacement of chemical fertilizers but can complement and supplement the use of nutrients.
  • Besides providing nutrients, use of biofertilisers also improve soil health.
  • Five biofertilisers viz. Rhizibium, Azatobacter, Azospirillum, Phosphate Solubilising Bacteria (PSB) and Mycorrhizalbiofertiliser are specified under FCO, 1985.

Promoting bio-fertilizers

Production (thousand tonnes)

  • 150 units producing only about 40% of installed capacity
  • The consumption is skewed – 80-90% in south & west zones of the country
iv promoting organic fertilisers
IV. Promoting Organic fertilisers
  • Soil organic matter is one the most important soil health parameter in terms of agricultural production and nutrient supply to plants and therefore fertilizer management
  • In addition to being a direct source of plant nutrients organic matter indirectly influences the availability of plant nutrients in soil from native pools.
  • Two organic fertilisers like city waste compost and vermin compost have been incorporated in Fertilizer Control Order, 1985 in order to regulate the production and quality control of these organic fertilizers.
promoting soil testing
Promoting Soil Testing
  • No. of soil testing Labs -715 (580 static+130mobile)
  • Annual analysing capacity - 78 lakh samples (likely to increase to 1.5 crores soil samples after commissioning of lab sanctioned during 11th Plan.
  • Capacity utilised- 87%
  • No. of holdings - 12 crore
  • In irrigated areas - 6.4 crores
  • No. of new labs required - 1500 (10000 samples capacity)(to cover all soils once in a 3 years)
  • Apart from NPMSHF fund are also provided to setup new labs and strengthening of existing labs under RKVY &MMA schemes to take soil testing programme on a Mission Mode and to provide soil Health Cards to farmers.
  • Funds provided to IISS for preparation of Geo referenced soil fertility maps of districts
nutrient based subsidy nbs
Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS)
  • To promote balanced fertilization by encouraging usage of complex fertilizers the NBS is made applicable to 24 P & K fertilisers other than urea
  • In addition to the fixed subsidy for NPK&S , additional subsidy of Rs.500/t for Zn and Rs. 300/t for B is provided for subsidized fertilizer carrying these nutrients in formulations approved under FCO 1985.
  • Soil fertility depletion due to inadequate and imbalanced fertiliser use is one of the major factors of stagnation in crop productivity
  • Widespread nutrient deficiencies and deteriorating soil health are cause of low nutrient use efficiency, productivity & profitability.
  • The lack of adoption of soil test based recommendations among farmers has aggravated the problem of imbalanced fertiliser use.
  • Sustainable production can be achieved through adoption of site-specific balanced and integrated nutrient management involving major, secondary and micro nutrients, organic manures, biofertilizers and amendments

Nutrients needs of Indian agriculture are now bigger and more wider (balanced fertiliser beyond NPK)

  • In addition to secondary and micronutrients, India would require 45 million tonnes of primary nutrients (NPK) to produce 300 Mt of foodgrains to feed the estimated population of 1.4 billion by 2025.
  • There is a need to utilize all indigenously available nutrient sources to reduce dependence on imports.
  • Need to develop new efficient fertilizer products
  • Need to create awareness among farmers on benefits of Integrated nutrient management.
soil health the challenge ahead

Soil Health – The Challenge ahead

The challenge ahead is to precisely monitor key soil health parameters and adopt integrated nutrient management practices that improve soil health

Ensure that nutrients are managed in a balanced and efficient manner