Soil salinization is a vicious factor impacting agriculture, resulting in low agricultural productivity, low economic returns and soil erosion. Most crop plants are sensitive to salinity and the area affected by salinity is increasing day by day. At the global level the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification Strategic Framework 2018–2030 (COP 13, China) indicated that soil health is key in combating soil degradation and climate change. In this backdrop, the Government of India has fixed a target of restoring 26 million ha of degraded lands by 2030.
The M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) has been promoting soil health for sustainable agriculture development by creating awareness and necessary capacity building among stakeholders to adopt site-specific technologies for mitigating soil degradation.
As part of the Global Soil Partnership of FAO, an event on the theme “Soil Salinization and Sustainable Food Systems” to commemorate the World Soil Day (WSD) 2021 on 7th December 2021 focussing on the theme “Halt soil salinization and boost productivity” was organised by MSSRF-TIGR2ESS and DBT KISAN Hub.
Dr. G.N. Hariharan, Executive Director (I/C), MSSRF briefed about the Foundations activity in large scale mapping soil salinity in the coastal regions using Electro-Magnetic (EM 30) for site-specific management measures. Dr. Rengalakshmi briefed about the global soil salinization status and its linkages with Sustainable Development Goals. Also, she highlighted the global soil salinity mapping and the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management developed by FAO.
Dr. D. Jawahar, Prof and former Director (NRM), Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore delivered the keynote talk on ‘Sustainable approaches for Soil Salinity management’. He spoke about visual indicators and analytical methods to identify soil salinity and recommended the cultivation of suitable crops and tree species and agronomic practices for adaptation to different salinity levels.
Following this, the panel discussion moderated by Dr. V. R. Prabavathy covered a wide range of topics such as soil salinity mapping, technologies for salinity
management and social impacts of soil salinity. Prof. V. B. Kuligod University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad briefed about different methods for measuring soil salinity and the importance of mapping salt-affected soils to monitor salinization rate, he also explained the principle and mechanism of the EM 30 for mapping salinity in wider geographical zones. Mr. R. Nagarajan, Head, GIS and Remote Sensing, MSSRF, Chennai, spoke about delineating saline soils using Remote Sensing and GIS application to monitor salinization and manage the source that causes soil salinization.
Dr. S. Jegan, Scientist, MSSRF, Chennai, discussed on different organic amendments that enhance soil fertility and soil quality contributing to soil salinization mitigation. He also explained about the role of plant microbiome as indicators to monitor soil health.
Dr. C.M. Pratheepa, Research Fellow, MSSRF, shared a study conducted in the coastal villages of Mayiladuthurai district, Tamil Nadu and explained how salinity is widening the inequality among different classes of farmers as well as women. Increasing coastal salinity is adversely affecting crop productivity, cropping intensity and farm income and negatively impacting the employment of both landed and landless households, triggering migration and less participation of youth in farming
The key points that emerged during this panel discussion has been synthesised and shared with GSP of FAO. Besides, MSSRF is continuing research and developmental work in managing soil salinity especially coastal soil salinity to help the farming community and improve their livelihoods. These outcomes would contribute to develop evidence based policy recommendations