This testing kit can read your soil in seconds
The overuse of chemical fertilisers and shunning the age-old organic soil revival practices and appropriate crop rotation are taking a toll on the soil fertility in the state, posing a major challenge for farmers. The situation worsens when there are no adequate facilities to test the soil before cropping at every season.
To tackle the issue, an innovative soil-testing kit was introduced in the startups meet of Global Impact Challenge 2018 organised by Kerala Startup Mission in Thiruvananthapuram. The tool was presented before a panel by Karnataka-based EasyKrishi, a young enterprise that uses digital interventions with an aim to change agricultural practices from ‘reactive mode to proactive mode’. The kit will help to determine the current condition of soil, providing the data on PH value and NPK ratio. It will help to minimise fertilizer expenditure, avoid over fertilisation and soil degradation. Further, the app-based tool will tell the customers the level of pesticide residue in vegetables one buys from the market in a couple of seconds.
The kit can be used by downloading the app in the smartphone of the farmer. The kit can be fixed on the rear side of the smartphone where the camera flash is situated. The farmer who puts a small quantity of soil collected from his farm inside the kit, in which reagents to test the soil has been filled, will get an instant reading upon pressing the button of the camera.
These kits are handy, easy to use and yield results without any dependency on complicated procedures and need for specialised machines. If the farm trial of the soil-testing kit is trustworthy, it can revolutionise the farm sector as the importance of soil moisture, soil texture and of course soil composition (chemistry) determines what crops can grow in particular regions, and how much yield the fields will produce, say, experts.
Andhra Pradesh to become India’s first Zero Budget Natural Farming state
The Government of Andhra Pradesh has launched a scale-out plan to transition 6 million farms/farmers cultivating 8 million hectares of land from conventional synthetic chemical agriculture to Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) by 2024, making Andhra Pradesh India’s first 100 per cent natural farming state.
The programme is a contribution towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on ‘No Poverty’, ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’, ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’, and ‘Life on Land’. It is led by Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (RySS) – a not-for-profit established by the Government to implement the ZBNF programme – and supported by the Sustainable India Finance Facility (SIFF) – an innovative partnership between UN Environment, BNP Paribas, and the World Agroforestry Centre.
The official launch of the ZBNF scale-out programme marked an unprecedented commitment by the state to promote the scale-out of climate-resilient, regenerative agriculture in a broader effort to transform and protect local food systems and long-term well-being of farmers.
As both a social and environmental programme, it aims to ensure that farming – particularly smallholder farming – is economically viable by enhancing farm biodiversity and ecosystem services. It reduces farmers’ costs through eliminating external inputs and using in-situ resources to rejuvenate soils, whilst simultaneously increasing incomes, and restoring ecosystem health through diverse, multi-layered cropping systems.
Considering its impressive scale, an effective shift to a 100% natural farming state with 8 million hectares free of chemical contamination will achieve transformative impacts in India. In addition, it will provide a blueprint for an inclusive agricultural model, which takes into account diversity of people along with agro-climatic conditions and can be adapted to varying global contexts to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change. Moreover, as 14 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are dependent on the status of natural resources, the health of communities, access to secure nutrition, and empowerment of women, ZBNF constitutes an effective cross-sectoral strategy for achieving SDGs targets.
Recognizing its transformative potential, the Sustainable India Finance Facility will facilitate the ZBNF scale-out process, targeting investments amounting to US$ 2.3 billion over the next 6 years.
Earth has more trees now than 35 years ago
Despite ongoing deforestation, fires, drought-induced die-offs, and insect outbreaks, the world’s tree cover actually increased by 2.24 million square kilometers — an area the size of Texas and Alaska combined — over the past 35 years, finds a paper published in the journal Nature. But the research also confirms large-scale loss of the planet’s most biodiverse ecosystems, especially tropical forests. The study, led by Xiao-Peng Song and Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, is based on analysis of satellite data from 1982 to 2016.
Overall, the study found that tree cover loss in the tropics was outweighed by tree cover gain in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions. Tree cover gain is being driven by agricultural abandonment in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America; warming temperatures that are enabling forests to move poleward; and China’s massive-tree planting program. Tree cover is also increasing globally in montane areas.
The biggest gains in tree cover occurred in temperate continental forest, boreal coniferous forest, subtropical humid forest. Russia, China, and the United States experienced the largest increase in tree cover among countries during the period. By contrast, the tropics saw substantial losses in tree cover, led by tropical moist deciduous forest, tropical rainforest, and tropical dry forest. Tropical dry forest had the highest rate of loss over the 35 years at 15 percent. Brazil led the world by far in tree cover loss, losing 399,000 kilometers.
The study estimates gross tree canopy loss globally at 1.33 million square kilometers, or 4.2 percent of 1982 tree cover. But adding in gains, the planet’s total area of tree cover increased by 2.24 million square kilometers, or 7.1 percent, from 31 million to 33 million square kilometers. The study concludes that 60 percent of all change during the study period were associated with human activities. Attribution varied across biomes, with direct human impact associated for 70 percent of tree canopy loss (e.g. deforestation), but only 36 percent of bare ground gain (e.g. tundra being colonized by poleward migrating vegetation as temperatures climb).
Beyond driving tree cover loss in the tropics, the footprint of agriculture shows up in other parts of the data, notably the replacement of bare ground cover with short vegetation cover.
India also ranked second in short vegetation gain after Brazil. While the short vegetation gain in Brazil is mainly due to the expansion of agricultural frontiers into natural ecosystems, short vegetation gain in India is primarily due to intensification of existing agricultural lands—a continuation of the ‘Green Revolution’. Bare earth is also declining in deserts, mountainous areas, and tundra, indicating the influence of climate change, which is creating conditions that support the growth of grasses, shrubs, and trees. Those shifts are contributing to an overall greening trend, whereby bare ground cover declined by 3.1 percent since 1982.
That “greening” however masks the ecological impacts of replacing diverse natural landscapes with monoculture crops. So while Earth may presently have more trees than 35 years ago, the study confirms that some of its most productive and biodiverse biomes — especially tropical forests and savannas — are significantly more damaged and degraded, reducing their resilience and capacity to afford ecosystem services.