This paper sheds light on the declining vitality of Indian soils and the resultant threat to food security in recent years and the contradictions in soil health management policies
This paper published in the Economic and Political Weekly explores the contradictions in soil health management policies and its impact on farming and food production in India in the context of the declining vitality of Indian soils and the resultant threat to food security, which has already been accepted as a critical crisis for agricultural production in India.
The paper informs that the indiscriminate usage of chemical fertilisers over several decades and complete neglect of ecological fertilisation have exacerbated this crisis. Policymakers have made promises to support ecological alternatives to address the crisis. However, these promises remain on paper and government policies continue to tread the path of chemical- intensive farming and have completely ignored soil health and neglected the importance of organic matter.
For example, the government has heavily subsidised chemical and synthetic fertilisers, particularly nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK). This mindless support has led to indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers, especially nitrogenous fertilisers, which in turn, have led to widespread soil degradation and yield stagnation in the regions, which have adopted chemical-intensive agriculture.
Of late there has been an acknowledgement of the soil health crisis and promises have been made to deal with the situation. However, the paper argues that investments continue to support a chemical fertiliser-based farming model. The paper argues that it is high time that the government makes investments to support a holistic ecological fertilisation programme and chalks out a plan to move away from the dependence on chemical fertilisers to ensure food security in the country.
Ecological fertilisation is often neglected citing reasons such as non-availability of biomass and high labour costs associated with such practices. However, few resources have been invested thus far in evaluating species, in improving cultural practices, and in devising appropriate implements for growing and harnessing plant biomass for soil health improvement. The government investment must go into grass roots institution-building, research and incentive mechanisms to support ecological fertilisation in a holistic manner, argues the paper.
A copy of the paper can be downloaded from below: