Saturday, 22 August 2009

Failing crops in Andhra Pradesh: 10 per cent of land turns saline or alkaline

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: As much as 10 per cent of rich agricultural land in the State has turned either saline or alkaline posing a serious threat to the over all farm production.
Farm experts attribute the drastic change in the delicate soil texture in several districts in the State to indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides over a period. The extent of salinity or alkalinity is so severe in some agricultural fields that not even grass grows on them. These soils are practically dead and unproductive.
Moreover, recent sociological changes have compounded the soil problems as traditional practices like application of green manuring have slowly started disappearing. "These changes are in the nature of leasing of land, which has been on the rise. In this case, neither the lease holder nor the land owner is interested in long term soil health management nor have time to plant, raise and incorporate green manure crop," says an official in the farm department.
The difference between normal fields and those affected by salinity or alkalinity is clearly visible even to the naked eye in delta areas. The worst affected districts include Krishna, Guntur, East and West Godavari, Prakasam, Nellore, Nizamabad, Warangal and Kurnool.
Also intensive agriculture, specially in irrigated lands, and heavy application of inorganic fertilisers has led to increase in extent of problematic soils. While 10 per cent of land is either saline or alkaline, nearly 20 per cent of the total cropped area is water logged. Water logging gradually destroys soil health.
Continuous water logging due to ground water besides rainfall recharge in these areas have turned thousands of hectares of land into alkaline. The soils become alkaline due to accumulation of chemical compounds like carbonates and bicarbonates.
It is estimated that about 7.55 lakh hectares of area is problematic soils in the State, which calls for an immediate reclamation on a massive scale to restore the productivity of these lands. Waking up to the problem, though late, the government has succeeded in reclaiming about 10,000 hectares in five districts. The State has 104.12 lakh hectares under agriculture.

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