It’s everywhere. Outside your home, on your feet, and sometimes - most exasperatingly - even in your shoes. Most of the time you barely give it a second glance and even if you do, it is with disdain. Soil. That’s the theme of a museum opened by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at the Central Soil Analytical Laboratory, Parottukonam here, on Wednesday.
Arguably the biggest of its kind in the world, the Soil Museum has on display eighty-two 1.5 metre-tall monoliths of benchmark soils found in the state. ‘Benchmark soils’ are those which are found extensively in a region, have a key position in the soil classification system and are of special significance to farming and engineering.
‘’This museum is the biggest of its kind in the world. The largest one so far, at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, has only 32 monoliths on display. So our museum is surely of international standards,’’ said Soil Survey Director P N Premachandran.
The 82 monoliths of the soil profiles have been arranged district-wise with detailed explanatory notes on each, including physical characteristics, the region of prevalence and uses in various sectors such as farming and engineering. For instance, seven benchmark soils from Thiruvananthapuram district are on display; Kazhakkoottam Series, Amaravila Series, Vellayani Series, Thiruvananthapuram Series, Nedumangad Series, Kallar Series and Ponmudi Series.
The Kazhakkoottam Series of soil is coarse and loamy and occurs along the coastal belt of the district. It is well-drained with a high water table during the rainy season. This type of soil is best suited for farming of coconut, vegetables and also for floriculture. Move to the eastern side of the district, and you find soil best suited for growing rubber, coconut, tapioca and pepper. This soil is classified as the Nedumangad Series. Then again, there is the Ponmudi Series where you find grasslands, tea plantations and forests. ‘’Kerala is rich in soils. Of the 12 soil orders in the world, eight are found in the state,’’ said Premachandran.
Each monolith has been extracted and processed using a painstaking process that takes between two and three months. The museum has also on display rock and mineral samples, geological maps of the state and charts on geological time periods on rock formation and factors of soil formation.
The basic idea of the museum is to create awareness about the importance of caring for the soil as it is of great importance to farming and industry. For those people who glibly say ‘’why, it’s just soil,’’ the museum has an interesting tidbit on offer; ‘’it takes about 1,000 years to make an inch of soil. So let us conserve our soils for the present and for the future.’’