Importance of soil testing in agriculture:
Soil testing plays a crucial role in understanding the requirements of the soil. This step is of paramount importance after each harvest since the crop grows by taking in the nutrients from the soil thus depleting the soil of those nutrients.
What is the importance of soil testing for crop production and soil health?
There are 2 main reasons why soil testing should be done by the farmers
- India is an agrarian society and majority of the people still depend upon agriculture directly or indirectly; good produce will have a direct impact on their economy.
- India has a tropical climate and this means the climate is suitable for cultivation throughout the year. This back-to-back cultivation and harvesting means there is a continuous depletion of nutrients. If this continues, the soil in due course will lose all its fertility and will be unfit for cultivation.
Thus timely intervention is required to analyse the condition of the soil and feed the required nutrients.
What is soil testing?
Soil Testing is a testing method to evaluate the fertility level and nutrient status of the soil. Soil testing also helps us to know the acidity or alkalinity status of the soil. Based on the test, the suitability of crop cultivation in that area can also be determined. Restoration of soil fertility is a key factor not to be missed for increasing crop productivity, profitability and sustainability.
How does soil testing benefit the farmers?
- Nutrient Optimization: Soil testing identifies which nutrients are lacking, allowing farmers to apply the right fertilizers in the right amounts.
- pH Adjustment: Soil pH affects nutrient availability. Testing helps adjust pH levels for optimal nutrient uptake.
- Precision Fertilization: Farmers can target specific nutrient deficiencies, reducing wastage and environmental impact.
- Preventing Over-Fertilization: Soil tests prevent excessive fertilizer use, which can lead to nutrient runoff and environmental harm.
- Customized Crop Recommendations: Based on soil test results, farmers receive tailored advice on crop selection and fertilization practices for maximum productivity.
Soil Testing at home:
There is a simple method that can be followed by the farmers to test the soil at home instead of getting their soil tested at soil testing centres which can be time consuming and expensive.
- Collect soil from where you wish to grow crops. Take soil at a depth of 15-20cm. Take care not to collect sample from the areas where manure, fertilizers or compost have been recently used.
- Divide the sample into 2 portions. Take the 2 portions into separate clean bowls.
- To one bowl of soil sample add some vinegar. If the soil fizzes or bubbles, then the soil is alkaline (pH above 7).
- To the second bowl of soil sample add some baking soda. If the soil fizzes or bubbles then the soil is acidic (pH below 7).
- If neither sample fizzes or bubbles then the soil sample is neutral (pH is around 7).
What to do if the soil is alkaline?
If the soil is alkaline the farmers should try to neutralise the alkalinity by adding Elemental sulfur, ammonium sulphate, ammonium nitrate and urea, or acidifying organic materials like peat or sphagnum peat moss.
What to do if the soil is acidic?
If the soil is acidic the farmers should add bases like quick lime (calcium oxide) or slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) to increase the pH level.
A simple soil testing done at home by the farmers will empower them with the right knowledge with which they can go for recommended crops with the right type of fertilizers applied at the right amount. This practice will align their productivity with maximum yield. Though professional soil testing can be done for a more detailed analysis and precise recommendation, quick and easy soil testing done by themselves will help the farmers, make a quick decision that will conserve their resources at the same time maximizing their agricultural yields.