Kerala

In Idukki high ranges, farmers’ spirits are low

Floods and landslips have changed soil properties, impacted soil organisms

Agriculture sector, especially in the high ranges, has been severely affected in the two consecutive floods. The prime culprit was landslips, triggered by heavy rain. The floods this year caused more damage to the farm sector than the one in August 2018.

The landslips highlighted soil sensitivity and the need for sustainable agriculture practices in the district. Though a serious study has not been conducted on how the changes in soil properties would affect crops like cardamom, preliminary surveys said that all crops were affected by the loss of some elements in the soil.

Drop in pH value

Principal Agriculture Officer in-charge Babu T. George told The Hindu that a soil testing campaign was launched after last year’s floods. It was found that there was a considerable drop in the soil pH level (pH is a measure of acidity and alkalinity in soil). It declined from 6.5 - 7.5 to 4- 4.5. Some sensitive crops like pepper and cardamom would be affected if timely remedial measures are not taken. The Agriculture Department has initiated remedial measures. The second flood hit the district at a time when the farm sector was recouping from the impact of the first floods.

Mr. George said that 1,651 hectares of land was damaged in the second floods and 7,141 farmers affected. Apart from crop loss, land loss is a major factor affecting the livelihood of small and medium level farmers. Dairy sector which is linked to the farm sector also in a bad shape.

Mr. George said compensation had been given to farmers who suffered heavy crop and land loss in the first flood. However, it would take a long period for the sector to recover, he said. How cardamom and pepper would adept to the changed soil nature would determine the crops’ productivity in the long run. The altered soil condition is bound to have an impact on vegetable crops too.

Lost soil cover

A major impact of the floods and landslips was on soil organisms, Mr. George said, adding that some of the microorganisms could disappear either immediately or slowly from the soil. This could turn out to be a dampener for the Agriculture Department’s efforts to promote organic cultivation among farmers.

Loss of soil and fertility would affect sustainability of crops on slops. In many areas, soil cover has been completely lost and rocks have surfaced. Long-term measures are vital in the district to restore the farm sector.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 9:18:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/in-idukki-high-ranges-farmers-spirits-are-low/article29310717.ece

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