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Soil Management: Experts Says Soil Testing Labs Need Better Tools

According to an agronomist and former agricultural officer, P.K. Pushpangathan, fertility of soil should be examined periodically and appropriate measures need to be adopted for optimum yield. The soil testing laboratories intended to perform the role are unequipped to test micronutrients, leading to a low-yield crop pattern.

He told that for analysing micronutrients the soil testing laboratories of the Department of Agriculture lack sophisticated facilities. He added that the State Department of Agriculture has 14 district soil testing laboratories and nine mobile soil testing laboratories. Most of the laboratories are giving recommendations in respect of major nutrients only.

“Panchayat-level plant nutrient management plans on systematic soil testing and scientific interpretations are required to ensure soil health and better crop production.” The Krishi Bhavans of the State should provide clear data about the availability of NPK, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, zinc, copper and boron as well as the pH value of the soil for each crop.

He said, The State being in humid tropics, vast areas are covered by laterite soil which is acidic, with low water and nutrient retention capacity. The base depleted soils are relatively infertile. It requires careful management to achieve more yield.

Soil-based plant nutrient management plans for agro-eco systems of Kerala were formulated in 2010-11 as a multi-institutional project for which the Department of Agriculture was the implementing agency. Studies made as part of the programme found out that soil acidification had reached alarming levels.

He also said, “Ninety per cent of soils suffer from acidity. Studies indicated indiscriminate application of phosphatic fertilizers and deficiency of secondary nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. Recommendations were submitted to improve the soil conditions, but affirmative actions had been lacking.”