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Centre Plans to Update Soil Health Card Initiative to Help Farmers

The government is overhauling the soil health card initiative to target small and marginal farmers, with an investment of 596.51 crores to analyze 50 million soil specimens over the next three years. The redesigned program is scheduled to go live by the end of the month.

Yash Saxena
Centre Plans to Update Soil Health Card Initiative to Help Farmers
Centre Plans to Update Soil Health Card Initiative to Help Farmers

The intensive agriculture and overuse of artificial fertilizers and pesticides have harmed India's soil fertility. The updated soil health card complements continuing efforts to encourage organic farming.

Farmers would be informed about the fertilizers to use when producing a specific crop through the scheme, according to two officials familiar with the plans.

"As part of the revamped scheme, the government is also focusing on creating a network of around 7,500 soil health entrepreneurs at the gram panchayat and block level," one of the officials added.

"Once the network is established, entrepreneurs will be given a small, automated soil testing machine, and farmers will be able to hire them at a government-determined price." Farmers must have their soil tested before each crop cycle, therefore the cost will be small," the official stated.

Given the economic and political sensitivity surrounding the farm industry, the redesigned policy will focus on small and marginal farmers. Currently, the district administrations of the agriculture department decide how many soil samples should be taken for every 2.5 hectares of irrigated land and 10 hectares of land that receives its water from the rain. Verifying the reliability of the data is difficult, though.

Although small and marginal farmers often own less than 2.5 hectares of land, the reports they receive refer to enormous land holdings. This is due to the fact that each farmer who may be cultivating the same plot of land is counted separately.

An industry insider acquainted with the program stated that soil sample reports are essential since farmers base their crop planting and fertilizer application decisions on the results of soil testing.

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