Importance of Soil in achieving Zero Hunger Challenge
2015 is the International Year of the Soil and the week 19-23 April is being commemorated as the Global Soil Week. The aim is to highlight the importance of land and soil to achieve the zero hunger challenge. As elsewhere, land is a shrinking resource for agriculture in India and we have to produce more and more from less and less land. The following steps are essential for this purpose:
Declare areas characterised by fertile soils capable of sustaining two to three good crops a year as Special Agricultural Zone (SAZ). SAZ identification and declaration may be made by state governments in consultation with farm men and women. Special facilities may be provided to farmers to maintain SAZ as the custodian of national food security.
Establish in each of our 130 agro-ecological zones, a Soil Health Monitoring and Amelioration Centre. Such centres should not only help farmers with soil health cards but also extend assistance to rectify soil defects like salinity, alkalinity, water logging etc.
Pay special attention to soil organic matter since this is essential for improving the hydrolic conductivity (physics), chemistry and microbiology of the soil.
Popularise local level of soil health assessment systems such as the presence of earthworms and nitrogen fixing and phosphorus solubilising microorganisms.
Train a cadre of local level Soil Health Managers (both men and women)to help in both soil health monitoring and amelioration.
Aristotle said long ago that, ‘soil is the stomach of the plant’. If we do not attend to soil health and improvement, we will not be able to achieve the goal of ending hunger. No further time should be lost in establishing SAZ to save good agricultural soils for the present and future populations.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.