Organic matter in soil 

#GS3 #Agriculture 

Soil Scientists Dr Rattan Lal (winner of prestigious World Food Prize) said that in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh soils are degraded and depleted because ‘organic matter’ is quite below (0.5-0.2 per cent). Dr Lal had opined that organic matter should be around 2-3 per cent. 

What is organic matter? 

  • Organic matter is the very foundation of good soil health. It consists of plants, animal material which gets converted into humus after decomposing. 
  • According to the agriculture department, it improves soil quality and fertility. Organic matter can even improve the fertility of sandy soils. It supplies nutrients, increases water-holding capacity, prevents soil erosion. Supplication of organic matter into the soil decreases with frequent tilling of the land. 

Organic Matter in Punjab’s soil  

  • In Punjab, 54.7 per cent land has medium organic carbon in the soil between .40 and .75 per cent, while 31.4 per cent of the land witnesses low OM below .40 per cent and only 13.9 per cent land witnesses high .75 per cent and above organic matter, which means on an average our soil had witnessed .51 per cent organic matter in this decade from 2011 to 2020. 
  • With the collective efforts of Punjab government, experts and farmers, it can be increased up to .50-1 per cent in a decade’s time, even though the increase was between .3 and .11 per cent in the past five decades. 

What farmers can do? 

  • By tilling the land again and again, organic matter gets disturbed and decreases. Experts advised farmers to opt for two crops a year and grow green manure as a third crop, which is ploughed into the field only to improve soil fertility. 
  • The best time to grow it is after wheat harvesting in April, and then ploughing it in the fields before paddy sowing in June. 
  • Putting cow dung in the fields, incorporating paddy and wheat stubble in soil, growing pulses like summer moong are methods to enhance it. 

Benefits  

  • When Punjab has already witnessed high productivity in several crops, enhancing this further with existing land holdings is possible when soil is enriched. For instance, paddy productivity in Punjab varies between 4.9 tonnes to 7.4 tonnes per hectare and wheat production is between 3.8 tonnes to 5.7 tonnes per hectare.  
  • If organic matter in the soil is enhanced to the desired level, the fertility of the soil of low production areas can be enhanced manifold to bring it at par with soil giving the highest production in the state. 
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