Soil Health Card Scheme
Almost a year into Prime Minister Modi’s reign at the helm of the Central Government, we witnessed the launch of a soil maintenance scheme for agriculture in February 2015. This scheme entailed the issuance of soil health cards to farmers so that they could get some appropriate assistance is studying and analysing soil quality, thereby returning them with good harvests each year. Per the policy, the initial plan was to render issuance of soil cards to approximately 14 crore farmers throughout the length and breadth of India. The card, which comes in the form of a report, would be issued in print to every farmer in possession of a farm or a land holding, once in about every three years.
What is soil health card?
The purpose of the concept of the soil health card is to study, review and issue a full assessment of the health of the soil. The soil health card is prepared after the soil quality has been completely evaluated, after having considered its functional and biological characteristics, like the properties of its water and nutrient content. In case any discrepancy is noted, the soil health card also issues guidelines on certain corrective steps that a farmer should undertake, to get a better output from that soil.
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How does it help the farmers?
Once the card is issued, the farmers gain access to a constantly evaluated and monitored report of the soil so that they can effectively choose a particular soil for a particular kind of crop cultivation. Provisions have also been made so that experts in the field of soil cultivation can guide farmers on specific solution for improvement of soil quality. This process of regular updated evaluation helps the farmers in achieving a long-term soil health, which can be further used in the evaluation processes of different soil management processes. If one person or an agency is assigned to one specific type of soil, the entire system can become more regularised and beneficial. The proposed objective behind this scheme is not to draw a comparative chart of various types of soil. Rather this is more of an evaluative process where there is a study of different forms of soil and their productivity in terms of crop production. The soil card will also be beneficial in farmers getting helpful knowledge about nutrients and fertilisers that a specific crop will require to flourish on a specific type of soil. This would not only increase crop yield to the maximum but also help in soil conservation.
The soil samples collected from different regions will be evaluated and graded at test laboratories specifically designed for this purpose. After this, soil samples will be compiled according to the soil strength and weakness data respectively collected. The results so obtained will find a place in the soil health cards to issued, along with suggestions from experts on how to improve the soil quality.
How far is the scheme successful?
This scheme was launched in February 2015. The first phase oversaw the target to systematically cover 84 lakh soil health cards. Out of this mandate, only 34 lakh cards had been issued till July 2015. Since this started off as a flagship scheme of the NDA Government in 2015, Andhra Pradesh as a State has been exemplary in coordinating the issuance of Soil Health Cards to farmers. Tamil Nadu and Punjab are two states who lead in collection of soil samples during the Kharif season. Though Tamil Nadu has still not started off the distribution of cards, it is still considered as a leading example of good initiative in this scheme along with Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Odisha, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. However, states like West Bengal, Mizoram, Kerala, Haryana, Goa, Gujarat, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh have not completed a fraction of their targets set for 2015-16. In fact some of these States have not issued a single card yet.
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Launching of soil health card web portal
To see to it that the scheme is successful, the Government, in partnership with the Central Agricultural Department has piloted the launch of a portal to maintain and update the soil health card. Apart from these, two new portal schemes to maintain quality of fertilisers and to ensure participatory guarantees have also been launched.
What is the soil health card portal?
Registration y the farmers needs to be completed at the government website (www.soilhealth.dac.gov.in) coupled with specific details about the soil samples and their lab results. After the registration, the farmer can use the Web portal to update himself about the following issues pertaining to his soil sample:
- Registration of soil samples
- Lab Test results obtained
- Recommendation on fertilisers
- Issuance of Soil Health Card
- Progress Monitoring Report on MIS Module
The primary purpose of launching this online website for farmers to cash in, is actually to maintain a nation-wide record database which can be handy in future for the purposes of research and planning by experts and farmers alike. Though initially started off in only English, the portal would soon be available in multitudes of regional languages also.