VISAKHAPATNAM : The agriculture lands in Visakhapatnam district are increasingly turning infertile due to phenomenal decrease in mineral components in the soil over the past few years. Scientists blame increasing usage of chemical fertilisers and deficit rainfall for the alarming situation and suggest that the government take up immediate measures to conserve the fertile lands in the district.
The three main elements in the soil that help a plant’s growth are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which are being consistently indexed in the ‘low’ category of nutrients in the soil for the past one decade in the district. The Soil Testing Laboratory wing in Visakhapatnam district, in its studies, established that all three compounds are limited to the 1.66 category, which falls in the ‘low’ grade of the nutrient index. The studies also revealed that other important elements like zinc, manganese, copper, iron and sulphur are also listed in the ‘low’ category, indicating how the soil strength has drastically weakened in the district. “Due to the low compound levels, the yield has decreased considerably. We have already briefed the chief minister about the issue during his recent visit. The situation in all 34 rural mandals is the same, except for the fact that it is little better in the 11 agency areas, if not entirely great,” said G Sunitha, assistant director of Soil Testing Laboratory (STL).
She blamed the indiscriminate utilisation of fertilisers and other chemicals, insufficient rains and ecological imbalances for the plummeting soil fertility levels.
The STL analyses about 8,000 samples every year and lists the strengths of the soil under the parameters low, medium and high. From time to time, the STL informs the government about the major and micro nutrients in the low category and suggests the officials and farmers to decide the crop variety, and required quantities of nutrients including fertilisers, based on the soil conditions, for a good yield.
However, despite these efforts, the farmers are still incurring huge losses as the yield is not proportionate to the expenditure, notwithstanding the expansive usage of fertilisers.
According to the statistics available at the agriculture department, a healthy production of paddy is 30 bags per acre (with each bag containing 75 kg of the grain). But during the past two Kharif seasons, a majority of the farmers are able to produce only 20-25 bags, even during favourable conditions. In the event of a cyclone or drought, the yield could fall further to 14 to 18 bags. Stressing the high need to take up measures to strengthen the soil, agricultural scientists have recently requested chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu to take up special measures to help the farming activity in the district. They have also informed the chief minister of how some farmers in several mandals have been forced to abandon farming altogether due to infertile lands and go in search of alternative jobs.
Responding to the growing threat, the Ministry of Agriculture has acknowledged the issue and assured the scientists of taking further action.