T.N. Agriculture Budget 2024 unveils scheme for chemical-free practices to improve soil quality

The scheme aims at improving soil health and fertility through shifting crop cultivation, the use of green manure, distribution of neem-based pesticides and reclamation of alkaline and acidic soil

February 20, 2024 12:41 pm | Updated 05:03 pm IST - CHENNAI

Traditional varieties of paddy cultivation will also be promoted, as per the TN Agriculture Budget 2024-25. File

Traditional varieties of paddy cultivation will also be promoted, as per the TN Agriculture Budget 2024-25. File | Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj

Tamil Nadu Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister M.R.K. Panneerselvam on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 announced the launch of a new programme, the Chief Minister’s Mannuyir Kaathu Mannuyir Kaappom Scheme (CM MK MKS), aimed at improving soil quality, and moving towards sustainable and chemical-free agricultural practices for the well-being of society. The allocation for this scheme is ₹206 crore for 2024-25.

Click here to read the full text of Tamil Nadu Agriculture Budget 2024-25

Mr. Panneerselvam presented the State Agriculture Budget 2024-25 on Tuesday in the Legislative Assembly, a day after the Tamil Nadu Budget 2024-25 was unveiled.

“Soil is a basic necessity of agriculture. Soil forms the base for growth, and it provides all necessary nutrients to all crops. The growth potential of crops depends on the fertility of the soil,” the Minister said. To reiterate the fact that shifting crop cultivation was essential to prevent the decline of soil health as practised by Tamils since ancient times, the Minister, quoting from Sangam poetry, said in the realm of conventional agriculture, the current prevalent practices of monocropping and cultivating high-nutrient exhaustive crops have contributed to the gradual depletion of essential nutrients from soil.

The Minister also pointed out that the indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, initially employed to boost production, had taken a toll on the beneficial soil microbial population, leading to a decline in overall soil fertility and health. “This has resulted in soil degradation, manifested in highly alkaline, saline, and acidic soil conditions. If this situation persists, we run the risk of bequeathing to our future generations, barren soil that is unsuitable for cultivation,” he warned.

The scheme, the Minister said, aimed at preserving soil fertility through the promotion of Green Manure usage among farmers. In the initial phase, slated for the year 2024-2025, an allocation of ₹20 crore has been earmarked for the distribution of Green Manure Seeds to cover 2 lakh acres, benefitting 2 lakh farmers.

Extolling the benefits of vermicompost in improving soil quality, the Minister said 10,000 farmers will be provided with vermicompost –two beds per farmer– for a total outlay of ₹6 crore. Additionally, a sum of ₹5 crore will be allocated for setting up permanent vermicompost pits.

The Minister also announced the government’s plan to launch an extensive soil testing initiative in farmers’ fields in 2,482 village panchayats selected under the Kalaignarin All Village Integrated Agriculture Development Programme. As part of this initiative, 2 lakh soil health Ccrds will be distributed, and farmers will be advised on ways to improve soil health and soil fertility, including reducing the use of chemical fertilizers. The allocation for the scheme is ₹6.27 crore and this will be made from both State and Union Government funds.

Mr. Panneerselvam also announced schemes for the reclamation of alkaline and acidic soil since “alkaline soil lacks aeration due to its compactness and acidic soil has low microbial activities.” He said ₹7.50 crore would be allocated for the reclamation of 37,500 acres of alkaline soil and ₹15 crore for the reclamation of 7,500 acres of acidic soil. A sum of ₹7.50 crore will be allocated for the distribution of 5 lakh litres of liquid bio-fertilizers to cover an area of 10 lakh acres which will benefit 2 lakh farmers.

The Minister said as azadirachtin, an active ingredient found in neem-based products, had proved to be an excellent pesticide without causing harm to the environment and as neem leaves were good green manure, the government would  promote the cultivation of neem trees. A total of 10 lakh neem tree saplings will be distributed to farmers for free.

To promote healthy lifestyles, the cultivation of traditional varieties of paddy, that have medicinal properties, such as Seevan Samba known for its diabetes-controlling attributes, will be actively promoted. In 2024-2025, these specific seed varieties will be distributed to farmers, the Minister said.

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