EXPLAINED NATIONAL

Soil Health Card – Bringing Life Back to Indian Farms

Soil Fertility India

Narendra Modi, when elected as the Prime Minister of India in 2014, brought with him some of his successfully implemented schemes from the state of Gujarat. One of such model schemes was Soil Health Card (SHC). When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Soil Health Card scheme in Gujarat as the Chief Minister of the state, it received much praise from all the quarters. Banking on the benefits of the scheme, it was also launched at the national level in 2015.

What is a Soil Health Card

It is actually a soil health report card that a farmer is given, which tells him the current status of the soil of his agricultural field with respect to 12 chosen parameters.

  1. Macro-Nutrients: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K);
  2. Secondary-Nutrient: Sulphur (S);
  3. Micro–Nutrients: Zinc (Zn), Iron (Fe), Copper (Cu), Manganese (Mn) and Boron (Bo);
  4. Physical Parameters: Acidity or Alkalinity of soil (pH), Soil Electrical Conductivity (EC), Organic Carbon (OC).

Based on this, the SHC also indicates the fertilizer recommendations and also if the soil amendment is required for the farm.

Why Soil Health Card is Required

This scheme is a corrective measure as farmers in India, due to lack of awareness about appropriate edaphic practices, end up using a wrong mix of fertilisers for their farms. The ideal ratio of the three most common fertilisers, that is, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium should be 4:2:1, whereas it had reached a threatening level of 6.5:2.9:1 in 2011-12, as per a report by Fertiliser Association of India (FAI).

Thus, SHC scheme was launched in the year 2015 at the national level, with a main aim of testing the soil samples from all over the country, regulate the use of fertilizers in the field and help farmers to increase production. The bigger purpose of the scheme was to increase the awareness about the skewed ratio of fertilisers being used in the field among the Indian farmers.

Image: Soil Health Card

How Soil Health Card is Being Distributed

SHC are to be made available once in a cycle of 3 years to indicate the status of soil health of a farmer’s holding for that particular period.

Due to these relentless effort of the Modi Government in the first phase of the scheme (2015-17), 10 crore SHCs were distributed. The second phase (2017-2019) began on May 1, 2017 and 6 crore SHCs have already been distributed as on November 2018.

*Data Source – Soil Health Portal         

From the above graph, it can be seen that more than 16 crore SHCs have already been distributed among the farmers. The cycle-2 is ongoing and hence the numbers of SHCs distributed will increase as the cycle ends towards the conclusion next year in 2019.

Achievements of Soil Health Card Scheme
  • As per the study of National Productivity Council:
    • The application of fertilizers and micronutrients based on Soil Health Card recommendations resulted in 8-10% of fertilizer savings.
    • There is an overall increase in the yield of crops to the tune of 5-6% by adopting the SHC recommendations.
  • According to the study by National Institute of Agriculture Extension Management (MANAGE):
    • “About 66% of the farmers are able to understand the content of the SHC, about 57% mentioned that the recommendations are suitable for their farms and about 53% are able to follow recommendations.” This suggests that SHC is proving to be useful in maintaining the fertility of the soil.
    • “There was a significant reduction in the use of Urea and DAP by 20-30% in paddy and cotton in some states.” This has resulted in decreased cost of cultivation of crops. This reduction in the cost of cultivation ranged between Rs.1,000 and Rs.4,000 per acre.
    • The use of micro-nutrients (especially gypsum) has slightly increased after the launch of SHC Scheme.

Therefore, with increase in the yields and the decrease in the cost of cultivation, net incomes of the farmers increased between 30 and 40% after the SHC scheme.

Conclusion

Thus, it can be said that our ‘New India’ is inching closer to the dream of ‘Doubling the Farmer’s Income’. Soil Health Cards are ushering in the new era of healthy soil management in the country, especially ending the menace of overuse of UREA or nitrogenous fertilisers.