Importance of Soil Conservation and Management

  • IASbaba
  • December 8, 2022
  • 0
Environment & Ecology, Geography
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Context: December 5 marks the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s World Soil Day, and the theme this year is ‘Soils: where food begins’, which aims to “raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human wellbeing by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, increasing soil awareness and encouraging societies to improve soil health”.


  • Soil conservation promotes sustainable and economic development to meet the N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
    • SDG 6Clean Water and Sanitation: Through drainage and purification, soil helps to provide clean water for drinking and farming.
    • SDG 13Climate Action: Through sequestration, soil can play a pivotal part in combating climate change by reducing atmospheric carbon.
    • SDG 15 — Life on Land: Healthy soils are essential for sustainable management of forests, fighting desertification, and reversing land degradation.

Need For A Healthy Soil Ecosystem:

  • Healthy soils are essential for survival. They support healthy plant growth to enhance both our nutrition and water percolation to maintain groundwater levels.
  • Soils help to regulate the planet’s climate by storing carbon and are the second largest carbon sink after the oceans.
  • They help maintain a healthy landscape that is more resilient to the impacts of droughts and floods. As soil is the basis of food systems, it is no surprise that soil health is critical for healthy food production.

Major causes of soil degradation

Soil erosion:

  • Among the agents, water is considered as the main cause of soil erosion.
  • Main agents of soil erosion are Water, Wind, Waves and Glaciers
  • Removal of the top layer of soil by various means, which include both natural events and human activities, is called as soil erosion.
  • Water-caused soil erosion can be classified as below:
    • Sheet Erosion: Uniform removal of the top soil just like a sheet.
    • Rill Erosion: Heavy water flow cause rill in Land.
    • Gully Erosion: Rill will enlarge as Gullies and land will be disordered. ( e.g.: Chambal Valley)
  • Wind erosion also causes sheet and rill erosions.
  • The largest area affected by soil erosion in India is the State of Rajasthan followed Madhya Pradesh.

Consequences of Soil Erosion:

  • Soil Erosion and fertility of top soil will be lost
  • Underground water level will be reduced
  • Loss of vegetation and habitat leading to drought and flood become frequent
  • Rivers get dried off
  • Adversely affect the economy and culture
  • Natural hideouts are formed when gully erosion occurs (Ex: Chambal valley was famous for criminal’s hideout)

Soil Degradation and its consequences:

  • Main drivers contributing to soil degradation: Industrial activities, mining, waste treatment, agriculture, fossil fuel extraction and processing and transport emissions.
  • Reasons behind soil nutrient loss: Soil erosion, runoff, leaching, and the burning of crop residues.
    • Soil degradation in some form or another affects around 29% of India’s total land area.
    • Nutrient loss and pollution significantly threaten soils, and thereby undermine nutrition and food security globally.
  • This in turn threatens agricultural productivity, in-situ biodiversity conservation, water quality and the socio-economic well-being of land dependent communities.
  • Nearly 3.7 million hectares suffer from a nutrient loss in soil (depletion of soil organic matter, or SOM).
  • Further, excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, and irrigation with contaminated wastewater are also polluting soils.
  • The impacts of soil degradation are far reaching and can have irreparable consequences on human and ecosystem health.

Soil conservation methods

  • Contour ploughing (cultivation against the direction of the wind) and Strip cultivation (cultivation in strips).
  • Flood control by government initiatives.
  • Reclamation of bad lands.
  • Organic farming.
  • Construction of proper drainage and Leveling of gullies, ravines etc.
  • Proper awareness about the need of conservation.

Govt of India Initiatives for Soil Conservation:

  • Soil Health Card (SHC) Scheme: The SHC is used to assess the current status of soil health, and when used over time, to determine changes in soil health.
    • The SHC displays soil health indicators and associated descriptive terms, which guide farmers to make necessary soil amendments.
  • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana: The initiative aims to prevent soil erosion, regeneration of natural vegetation, rainwater harvesting, and recharging of the groundwater table.
  • National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture: It has schemes promoting traditional indigenous practices such as organic farming and natural farming, thereby reducing dependency on chemicals and other Agri-inputs, and decreasing the monetary burden on smallholder farmers.

International collaboration for soil conservation: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) undertakes multiple activities to support the Government of India’s efforts in soil conservation towards fostering sustainable agrifood systems such as-

  • Development of forecasting tools: The FAO is collaborating with the National Rainfed Area Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoA&FW) to develop forecasting tools using data analytics that will aid vulnerable farmers in making informed decisions on crop choices, particularly in rainfed areas.
  • Capacity Building for the adoption of sustainable and resilient practices: The FAO, in association with the Ministry of Rural Development, supports the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission’s (DAY-NRLM) Community Resource Persons to increase their capacities towards supporting on-farm livelihoods for the adoption of sustainable and resilient practices, organic certification and Agri-nutri-gardens.
  • Working with states: The FAO works in eight target States, namely, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Punjab, for boosting crop diversification and landscape-level planning.
  • In Andhra Pradesh, the FAO is partnering with the State government and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to support farmers in sustainable transitions to agro-ecological approaches and organic farming.

Way Forward:

There is a need to strengthen communication channels between academia, policymakers and society for the identification, management and restoration of degraded soils, as well as in the adoption of anticipatory measures. Greater cooperation and partnerships are central to ensure the availability of knowledge, sharing of successful practices, and universal access to clean and sustainable technologies, leaving no one behind.

The consumers and citizens can contribute by planting trees to protect topsoil developing and maintaining home/kitchen gardens, and consuming foods that are mainly locally sourced and seasonal. Building the resilience of our ecosystems is critical to addressing the challenges of a changing climate.

Source: The Hindu

Previous Year Question

Q.1) The black cotton soil of India has been formed due to the weathering of  (2021)

  1. Brown forest soil
  2. Fissure volcanic rock
  3. Granite and schist
  4. Shale and limestone

Q.2) What is/are the advantages/advantages of zero tillage in agriculture? (2020)

  1. Sowing of wheat is possible without burning the residue of the previous crop.
  2. Without the need for nursery of rice saplings, direct planting of paddy seeds in the wet soil is possible.
  3. Carbon sequestration in the soil is possible.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3


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