Low water use efficiency rates of 50-55% in irrigated farms and 30-35% in rainfed areas in Andhra Pradesh and excessive use of fertilizer in the coastal districts were some of the key issues raised by Dr Suhas P Wani, Director, ICRISAT Development Center, at the Rythu Kosam workshop. ICRISAT monitors pilot sites covering an area of 10,000 ha in 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh and the progress is reported every trimester.
Dr Wani said that soil health is critical for increased yields and productivity. Hence, enhanced awareness on integrated nutrient management (INM) is required to address the issues. He pointed out that in certain coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is being used in excess. It is important to use fertilizer at levels recommended by soil health tests, so as to reduce pollution and ensure enhanced yields. The message for all stakeholders and farmers was to use fertilizers more responsibly and as required.
It was noted that farmers trusted fertilizer and pesticide dealers and only 17% of farmers were receiving technical support and extension support from the government.
Dr Vijay Kumar, Special Chief Secretary, Department of Agriculture, advised on actions needed, including:
- Brainstorming on action plans to reach out to farmers across the state, ways to monitor critical recommendations and behavioral changes in farmers, reforms in extension, bring more area under green manuring and to formulate and disseminate six to eight best practices to increase soil organic carbon and organic matter.
- Department to undertake rectification of micronutrient application area wise with the help of Multi-Purpose Extension Officers (MPEOs) in the upcoming kharif (rainy) season.
- Development of an app which would enable each MPEO to know the Gross Value Added (GVA) of a particular gram panchayat and income of each farmer.
- ICRISAT to act as a repository for all information on soil sampling and also be responsible for quality control at the state level.
- Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU) and Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) to be responsible for maintenance of quality at the district level.
- ICRISAT to provide training in collecting soil samples through video conferencing with extension officers.
- Department of Agriculture to collect soil samples in districts where no rabi (postrainy) crop has been cultivated and to make a list of the additional facilities required for existing soil testing labs to analyze soil organic carbon.
Dr S Gopi, Senior Technical Officer, Commissioner’s office, said that in 2015, 400,000 soil samples were collected and analyzed by geo-referencing a 10 ha grid in dryland areas and 2.5 ha grid in irrigated areas. As many as 1.6 million Soil Health Cards were processed and this year a program to collect 641,000 soil samples by end of May has been initiated by the Department of Agriculture. From the analysis, land form situation, soil status and soil fertility level can be understood. This helps macronutrient, micronutrient and organic amendments to be rectified on farmers’ field. The department also has added new instruments that are being used in five mobile soil testing labs and many new technologies will be added this year, he said. Two mandals in each district are monitored by ICRISAT and samples from pilot areas are selected in such a way that the complete district soil analysis can be made.
A presentation by Dr KL Sahrawat, Consultant, ICRISAT, on Soil Mapping: Challenges and Opportunities, dealt on soil sampling equipment, sampling techniques, soil sample preparation and analysis. Dr Girish Chander, Senior scientist – Natural Resource Management, ICRISAT, presented on Soil Test Based Integrated Nutrient Management Strategies. The presentation dealt on deciding nutrient application dose on the percentage deficiency observed in the soil health card. A presentation, Strategies to Build Soil Carbon Stocks, was presented before the close of the session.
Participants were divided into four groups and allotted a topic to discuss and come out with strategies to implement INM. The topics included preparing an action plan for soil sample analysis and collection; INM strategies; awareness building on INM for extension functionaries and farmers; and monitoring, evaluation and behavioral change.
Sixty four participants including Joint Directors of Agriculture, Deputy Project Directors – Agricultural Technology Management Agency, Deputy Directors of Agriculture, Assistant Directors of Agriculture, Assistant Directors of Agriculture – Farmers’ Training Centre from Department of Agriculture, scientists from ANGRAU, District Agricultural Advisory and Transfer of Technology Centres and KVKs were present. Scientists including district coordinators from ICRISAT participated in the workshop on 18 January at ICRISAT headquarters.