Farming as an activity contributes nearly 1/6th of our Gross Domestic Product and a majority of our population is dependent on it for their livelihood. Deteriorating soil health has been a cause of concern and that has been leading to sub optimal utilization of farming resources.
Imbalanced use of fertilisers, low addition of organic matter and non-replacement of depleted micro and secondary nutrients over the years, has resulted in nutrient deficiencies and decrease in soil fertility in some parts of the country
Soil testing needs to be assessed at regular intervals so as to ensure that farmers apply the required nutrients while taking advantages of the nutrients already present in the soil.
Government has launched a scheme to provide every farmer a Soil Health Card in a Mission mode. The card will carry crop wise recommendations of nutrients/fertilizers required for farms, making it possible for farmers to improve productivity by using appropriate inputs.
Central Government provides assistance to State Governments for setting up Soil Testing Laboratories for issuing Soil Health Cards to farmers. State Governments have adopted innovative practices like involvement of agricultural students, NGOs and private sector in soil testing, determining average soil health of villages, etc., to issue Soil Health Cards.
A Soil Health Card is used to assess the current status of soil health and, when used over time, to determine changes in soil health that are affected by land management. A Soil Health Card displays soil health indicators and associated descriptive terms. The indicators are typically based on farmers’ practical experience and knowledge of local natural resources. The card lists soil health indicators that can be assessed without the aid of technical or laboratory equipment.
Though quite a few states including Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Haryana are successfully distributing such cards, Centre plans to make it a pan India effort. As per to the data, up to March 2012 over 48 crore soil health cards have been issued to farmers to make them aware about nutrient deficiencies in their fields.
Tamil Nadu has started issuing soil health cards from the year 2006 onwards. There are 30 Soil Testing Laboratories (STLs) and 18 Mobile Soil Testing Laboratories functioning in the State. The Laboratory at Kudumianmalai, Pudukottai District has been declared as central laboratory and it monitors quality of analysis in all laboratories.
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University has developed software – DESSIFER which is used by the STLs for online issue of soil heath cards and also in formulating fertilizer use recommendations.