The Centre’s plan to provide soil health cards (SHCs) to 14 crore farming families by February 2018 is going far behind the schedule. SHCs, aimed at improving the farm productivity through optimum use of fertilisers, have so far been distributed to only 5.6 crore farmers, about 40% of the overall target.
Sources told FE that with the slow pace witnessing since the scheme’s launch in July 2015, providing cards to all farmers within next one year would be a tough task. Many states have been reluctant to expedite the process of soil testing, which is mandatory for the issuance of SHCs. With the exception of Chhattisgarh(90%), Tamil Nadu (79%), Maharashtra (78%) and Andhra Pradesh (58%), in all other major states, the distribution of cards has been far below 50%.
In states namely Uttar Pradesh (27%), Madhya Pradesh (34%), Rajasthan (25%), Karnataka (36%), Bihar (40%) and Punjab (13%), the distribution of soil cards is slow. The states that are lagging behind mostly attribute the delay to shortage of soil testing laboratories. Besides, the officials cite lack of scrutiny and supervision in the absence of personnel at the testing labs for tardy progress.
Officials said that in order to improve quality of soil and for better nutrient values and higher yields, at present, general fertiliser recommendations are followed by farmers for primary nutrients, while that of the secondary and micro nutrients are often not looked into. “We often come across deficiency of nutrients like sulphur and zinc, which adversely impact the productivity of various crops,” an official said.
In July 2015, Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh had stated that soil health cards would be distributed to all farmers within three years. In 2003-4, Gujarat was the first state to introduce SHCs to initiate the scientific measures for soil healthcare.
The SHC aims at giving farmers their soil nutrient status and also provide advice on the dosage of fertilisers and soil amendments, which should apply to maintain soil health in the long run.
A study by the National Productivity Council in 2016 had indicated that 84% of farmers said that they had applied the nutrients recommendations suggested in the SHCs and found that they were beneficial for them in reducing the cost of cultivation and improving crop productivity.
In the current fiscal year, the Centre has allocated R222 crore for providing the SHCs, which is currently being implemented jointly with the state governments.