To improve agricultural productivity by detecting soil nutrient deficiencies and remedying them, two state-of-the-art soil testing laboratories in Bhubaneshwar and Sambalpur are being set up and have begun dry runs. The referral laboratories are being set up in a convergence mode, with ICRISAT supporting the government laboratory staff for a period of one year to make them self-reliant in running the laboratories. These labs will serve as nodal agencies and strengthen the state’s initiative to provide farmers soil health cards.
The need for soil testing
Without good soil, a farmer’s crop will usually fail or yields will be low. It is well known that the semi-arid tropics in India have degraded soils due to weathering, lack of moisture, poor nutrient management, overuse of chemical fertilizers, etc.
In Odisha under the Bhoochetana Project, 40,000 soil samples from across 30 districts were analyzed. The exercise revealed widespread zinc and boron deficiency.
Based on learnings from remedies that were piloted in the state, it was estimated that if improved nutrient management is scaled out to even 50% of the cultivated area, the state’s agricultural productivity will increase by at least 10%.
Genesis of referral labs under Odisha Bhoochetana
Odisha government reviewed the status of soil testing labs in the state and collaborated with ICRISAT for transforming laboratories in Bhubaneshwar and Sambalpur into referral laboratories for the state. ICRISAT, which has been implementing the Bhoochetna project with the government, has a state-of-the-art laboratory, the Charles Renard Analytical Laboratory (CRAL), for soil, plant and water analysis in Hyderabad. CRAL is one of the two laboratories in India accredited by the FAO’s Global Soil Laboratory Network (GLOSOLAN).
Getting soil labs running during a pandemic
The referral labs will cater to Odisha’s need for analyzing a large number of soil, water, fertilizer and plant samples in a short time. The laboratory staff will be trained according to international guidelines for conducting analysis in the long run which will leverage the whole soil health management system.