Soil in Kolli Hills lacks organic carbon, nitrogen and potash, says study

December 10, 2012 12:00 am | Updated 05:09 am IST - NAMAKKAL:

Tests conducted on soil samples to determine level of macro and micro nutrients

Study on the availability of micro and macro nutrients in soil samples collected from Valapurnadu Panchayat atop Kolli Hills reveals that it lacked three of the four main macro ingredients – organic carbon, nitrogen and potash.

“On the other hand availability of zinc (micro nutrient) is also below average,” M. Janakiraman, a Soil Pedologist and Consultant said.

He said this after distributing soil health cards to farmers in that Panchayat on Friday.

Testing soil quality and suggesting appropriate solutions to suit farmers was taken up under the Alleviation of Poverty and Malnutrition in Agro-biodiversity Hotspots that is carried out by M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in collaboration with the University of Alberta, Canada.

Principal Investigator of the project S.A. Siddick told The Hindu that their project is aimed at alleviating the woes of persons from tribal communities by helping them earn more by increasing productivity of their major cash crops such as tapioca and hill banana by enabling them to understand the quality of their soil better.

He said that a total of 415 – dry and wet land – samples were collected from over 200 hectares of cultivable land that is owned by 1,000 farmers, in June 2012.

Tests were conducted to analyse the four macro nutrients (organic carbon, nitrogen, potash and phosphorous) and four micro nutrients (zinc, manganese, copper and iron).

Analysing the reports, Mr. Janakiraman said that organic carbon is highly deficient as persons from tribal community have not applied it for decades.

On the other hand a large portion of naturally available organic carbon has been eroded from the sides of the hills by the rains.

However, phosphorous is available in abundance but it cannot be absorbed by the plants.

Mr. Siddick observed that farmers indiscriminately used complex fertilizers, resulting in further increase in phosphorous, which suppresses other nutrients from reaching the plants.

“This has resulted in drop in the yield as farmers are able to harvest an average 60 bags (70 kg each) of tapioca. Properly following advice that they were given will help them harvest upto 100 bags per acre.

“They were asked to use a lot of organic manure such as poultry litter that is available in large quantities in Namakkal. A small quantity of urea and potash should be mixed with the litter to make up the deficiency of macro nutrients. Using three tonnes of litter per acre equals use of 10 tonnes of cow dung,” he added.

Farmers were also advised to use Phosphobacteria (a biofertilizer) to convert available phosphorous to be usable by the plants.

“Recommendation were also given to make optimum use of vermin compost and to inter crop tapioca (that grows for one year) with pulses and millets that can be harvested in 60 and 90 days respectively,” he observed.

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