Kerala’s first soil museum, to be inaugurated here on January 1, will highlight the diversity of soil and mineral resources in the State and provide critical data inputs for farmers, helping them improve crop yield.

The museum, set up by the Department of Soil Survey and Conservation at Parottukonam, also offers a platform to create awareness of the need for soil conservation and watershed development. It has academic support facilities for students and researchers in soil science.

The main attraction of the museum is a collection of soil profiles featuring the different benchmark soils in each district. Named monolith, a profile represents the soil typical of a region, with all the basic characteristics preserved intact. “We have prepared monoliths of all the 82 soil series found in the State. The information provided by these profiles is of special significance to students, researchers, and farmers alike and of general interest to the public,” says P.N.Premachandran, Director, Soil Survey and Conservation.

Soil monoliths

Each monolith is a 1.5-metre vertical section of soil. The samples are dug out without disturbing the elements and transported to the department’s laboratory where it is processed up to a month before being mounted in the museum hall. “The soil structure has to be meticulously maintained during collection, transporting, and processing. It is a long, painstaking process,” explains Dr. Premachandran. The project team was trained by experts from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, which hosts the World Soil Museum.

The classification of soils has been done in accordance with the internationally accepted USDA (US Department of Agriculture) system. Each soil profile is accompanied by information on the taxonomic class, nutrient status, productivity potential, and an interpretation showing the suitability for various crops, optimum land use and managerial requirements. While students and researchers can use the data for assignments and project work, farmers will find it useful in nutrient management and crop planning. Visitors will be provided a printed handout on each series.

Allied exhibits

The eight general types of soil found in Kerala, namely alluvial, coastal alluvial, kari, red loam, black cotton, forest, laterite and hill, are also exhibited, along with a map made of these soil types. Another section of the museum is devoted to a collection of rocks and minerals and an exhibition of various soil constituents like clay, silt, sand, stone and gravel. A geological and mineral map of Kerala is another highlight. Display boards explain the principles of soil formation and the relevance of soil to climate change and food security. The building has a mini- theatre for presentations and documentary films.

A Soil Information Centre attached to the museum features a watershed model to demonstrate the various elements of a watershed and conservation measures like contour bund, slope inward terrace, earthen bund, live fencing, drainage channels, grade bund and various types of check dams and rainwater harvesting mechanisms. District soil maps and watershed maps and an exhibition of soil survey tools are another feature. The information centre has a reference section equipped with books published by the department.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is scheduled to inaugurate the museum on Wednesday in the presence of Minister for Agriculture K.P. Mohanan.