Soil Quality and Food Security

Soil Quality and Food Security

Poor soil management will erode food security

#GS-03 Agriculture 

For Prelims

World Soil Day:

  • World Soil Day (WSD) is annually observed on December 5.

Theme: ‘Soils: Where food begins’

For Mains

The importance of soil quality:

  • Healthy soils support healthy plant growth to enhance both our nutrition and water percolation to maintain groundwater levels.
  • Soils help to regulate the planet’s climate by storing carbon and are the second largest carbon sink after the oceans.
  • They help maintain a landscape that is more resilient to the impacts of droughts and floods.
  • Soil degradation in some form or another affects around 29% of India’s total land area.
  • This in turn threatens agricultural productivity, in-situ biodiversity conservation, water quality and the socio-economic well-being of land dependent communities.

The threats to soil quality:

  • The main drivers contributing to soil degradation are industrial activities, mining, waste treatment, agriculture, fossil fuel extraction and processing and transport emissions.
  • The reasons behind soil nutrient loss range from soil erosion, runoff, leaching and the burning of crop residues.
  • Further, excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, and irrigation with contaminated wastewater are also polluting soils.

India’s Strategy

  • The Government of India is implementing a five-pronged strategy for soil conservation.
  • This includes making soil chemical-free, saving soil biodiversity, enhancing soil organic matter (SOM), maintaining soil moisture, mitigating soil degradation and preventing soil erosion.
  • Government of India launched the Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme in 2015.
  • The SHC is used to assess the current status of soil health, and when used over time, to determine changes in soil health.
  • The SHC displays soil health indicators and associated descriptive terms, which guide farmers to make necessary soil amendments.
  • Other pertinent initiatives include the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, to prevent soil erosion, regeneration of natural vegetation, rainwater harvesting and recharging of the groundwater table.
  • National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) has schemes promoting traditional indigenous practices such as organic farming and natural farming.
  •  This will reduce dependency on chemicals and other agri-inputs, and decreasing the monetary burden on smallholder farmers.
  • The FAO is collaborating with the National Rainfed Area Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoA&FW) to develop forecasting tools using data analytics that will aid vulnerable farmers in making informed decisions on crop choices, particularly in rainfed areas.

What needs to be done:

  • There is a need to strengthen communication channels between academia, policymakers and society for the identification, management and restoration of degraded soils, as well as in the adoption of anticipatory measures.
  • These will facilitate the dissemination of timbely and evidence-based information to all relevant stakeholders.
  • Greater cooperation and partnerships are central to ensure the availability of knowledge, sharing of successful practices, and universal access to clean and sustainable technologies, leaving no one behind.