The Department of Agriculture has chalked out a project to promote the application of lime in farmlands across the State. The project is aimed at neutralising the high level of soil acidity that has affected crop productivity in the State.

The pilot project, estimated to cost Rs.1.5 crore, has been approved by the government for implementation in Wayanad district, Director of Agriculture R. Ajithkumar told The Hindu.

Planning Board Chief (Agriculture) P. Rajasekharan said the soil-based intervention was worked out on the basis of a multi-institutional study that revealed excessive levels of acidity in 91 per cent of the soil samples collected from across the State.

Use of dolomite

Mr. Ajithkumar said the department would have to look at the option of sourcing dolomite (calcium magnesium carbonate) in large quantities from Tamil Nadu as an alternative to lime, which was scarcely available and expensive. Dolomite is largely used in the cement industry. “During the pilot phase, we will assess the efficacy of dolomite in neutralising the soil acidity.”

Liming also helps to improve plant nutrient uptake and enhances the activity of soil microorganisms, thereby boosting the effect of biofertilizers and biocontrol agents for pest control.

Mr. Ajithkumar, however, said farmers would need financial support in the form of subsidies to cover the cost of liming their holdings. “In the long term, the expense incurred on liming will be offset by higher crop yield. But in the initial phase, farmers would be reluctant to invest in procuring lime.”

Dr. Rajasekharan said the project would be extended to other districts after the pilot phase.

J.S. Samra, CEO of the National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) under the Planning Commission, said it was important for Kerala to take up liming as a priority programme to improve fertilizer efficiency and reduce soil toxicity. Dr. Samra, who was in the city to participate in a workshop organised by the Planning Board, said dolomite would be a cheaper alternative to lime. A.K. Sikka, Deputy Director General, Indian Council for Agriculture (ICAR), highlighted the immediate need for a State-level policy on liming to address the problem of soil acidity. He proposed an incentive scheme for farmers to promote the application of lime or dolomite. Former Director of Agriculture R. Hailey said Kerala would require at least 10 lakh kg of lime if the programme to control soil acidity was to be implemented across the State. This, he said, would necessitate an input supply system supported by industry.

More In: Kerala | National