Soil health card scheme progressing well despite hiccups:Study
Soil Health Card Scheme is progressing well despite challenges like inadequate staff, lack of power supply and internet connectivity among others, a government-commissioned study said.
Under the scheme launched in February 2015, soil health cards have been distributed to nearly ten crore farmers so far, against the target of 12 crore, as per the official data.
The card, which will be issued every three years, provides information to farmers on nutrient status of soil along with recommendation on appropriate dosage of soil nutrients to be applied for improving soil health and its fertility.
"The overall impact of the scheme has been positive leading to maximisation and sustainable growth at farm level by cost minimisation and through efficient utilisation of resources," said the study done by National Productivity Council (NPC) and commissioned by the agriculture ministry.
The study however noted gaps in manpower, both technical and non-technical staff, for collecting soil samples and thereafter testing them in labs.
The NPC suggested that the field staff be provided the honorarium for collection of soil samples and distribution of cards in time. The honorarium for collection of soil samples may be increased from Rs 10 to Rs 25 per sample.
For the benefit of farmers, the soil testing for all individual farm fields should be undertaken in a phased manner and crop specific recommendation about the use of fertiliser and micro nutrients should be provided, it added.
Presently, samples are collected on a grid of 2.5 hectare in irrigated areas and 10 hectare in un-irrigated areas.
On availability of testing equipment, the NPC suggested renovation and strengthening of old soil testing labs with appropriate power back-up besides providing the Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (AAS) at taluk level labs for testing micro-nutrients.
Appropriate internet connectivity should be provided so that the data can be uploaded easily on the portal. Even adequate printers should be made available at labs for printing soil health cards, it added.
Among others, the NPC recommended the government to develop standard operating practices for labs for storage of soil samples, their analysis and distribution of soil health cards efficiently.
The revenue records should be updated so that correct information about the name of farmers is available and also the government should provide more funds for printing cards, which at present is Rs 190 per card and needs to be raised to Rs 325 per card, it said.
That apart, the NPC suggested convergence of similar state schemes that support strengthening of the soil testing infrastructure for efficient use of resources.
It also recommended discontinuing mobile soil testing labs under the scheme because its size has not been standardised yet and also faces other administrative issues.
The study, conducted in 19 states covering 76 districts and a total of 170 soil testing labs, assessed the status of soil testing infrastructure and identify areas where facilities can be augmented on a regular basis for issuing soil health cards every three years.