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Package of Practices
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Distribution of problem soils in India cropped to rice

While the diversity in agro ecological environment in the country provide opportunities for growing  numerous commercially viable cropping and farming systems towards a robust agriculture, efficient and sustainable management of natural resources especially soil and water for enhanced soil productivity is vital for over all economy of the country.  Although soil productivity depends largely on a number of its diverse physico - chemical and biological characteristics, the ultimate output is governed by the precise agronomic operations, matching production systems with land capability, efficient management of external inputs like seed, water, nutrient etc., and maintaining a synergy between conservation and exploitation of resources such as soil and water.

Table : Distribution of problem soils in India cropped to rice
Soils Area(M.ha) States Sodic 2.5-3.0 Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu Inland Saline 2.4 Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Potential (15.0) Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Coastal saline 2.5-3.0 West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh,  Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra Acid soils 49.0 (15.0) North East Hills, West Bengal, Orissa, North Coastal Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Bihar Acid saline 0.5-1.0 Kerala, West Bengal Nutrient problems Deficiency N,P,Zn,Fe,S,K,Ca,Mn Toxicity Fe,H2S,Al, As,Se  

Soil and management related constraints

Soil and management related constraints in rice production in India can be delineated in following points:
  • Increasing area under soil salinization (8-10 M ha) (salt affected) - major portion is cropped to rice,
  • About 15 M.ha of rice soils are acidic associated with toxicity of Fe, Al, Mn, As, deficiency of K, Ca, Mg, B, Si, and P fixation,
  • About  8.0 M.ha of rice area is deficient in zinc (Zn)
  • Nearly 50 and 80% of Indian soils are responsive (low to medium) to potassium and phosphorous, respectively,
  • Blanket fertilizer management/recommendation over large domains,
  • Nutrient depletion (N, K, S) and loss of soil organic matter in intensive cropping systems,
  • About 3.0 M ha in northwestern states under rice-wheat cropping system affected by Mn deficiency
  • Nutrient problems of deficiency of N, P, K, Zn, Fe, S, Ca, B, and toxicity of Fe, Al, H2 S, As, Se and
  • Overall stagnation or deceleration of growth in productivity of crops and cropping systems    
  • Wet season rice followed by dry season fallow causes considerable buildup of nitrate in soil profiles.
  • This NO3 gets lost from the soil when fields are reflodded  and puddled for planting rice in the following wet season
  • Data indicate that iron (Fe) content of ground water in all the districts is high due to high content of Fe-bearing minerals in soils, and such ground water is not suitable for irrigation unless properly managed Continuous use of such irrigation water causes Fe-toxicity and other nutrient imbalances in crop plants. 
  • It also greatly reduces P-availability in the soil.  
  • Precipitation of iron in surface and subsurface layers may clog the pores of the soils. 
  • As a result, drainage is impeded and crop plants suffer from inadequate O2 supply in the root zone.

Loss of soil organic carbon (SOC)

  •  In India SOC content is most of the soils range from 0.2 to 0.5% (2-5 g/kg soil) which works out to 21 and 156 billion tons up to 30 and 150 cm soil depth, respectively while total soil inorganic C pool (SIC) is about 196 billion tons. 
  • Loss of SOC is alarming due increasing atmospheric temperature and changing rainfall pattern.
  • Extensive mining of soil fertility, removal or burning of crop residues, soil degradation, inappropriate soil tillage and poor crop management, besides accelerated soil erosion (34 – 50 Tg C/yr) are the major reasons for loss of SOC and decline in crop productivity.
  • Technological options for soil C sequestrations in India include INM, green manuring, mulch farming, conservation tillage, residue recycling, and choice of cropping systems, balanced nutrient use with high nutrient use efficiency etc. 
  • Available information on loss of productivity due to soil degradation indicates that it is higher in red soils compared black and alluvial soils.
  • This warrants a knowledge based alleviation of soil problems, and management of soils and inputs keeping in view the resource quality, cropping system, and nutrient flows in the system for the overall sustainability. 
Table :9 Expected loss of productivity due to soil acidity
Soil pH Degree of acidity Loss inProductivity (%) >6.5 Nil Nil 5.5-6.5 Slight Upto 10 4.5-5.5 Moderate 10-25 3.5-4.5 Strong 25-50 <3.5 Extreme >50

Soil affected due to water erosion

  • About 149 M.ha is affected due to water erosion, 13.5 M.ha by wind erosion, 14.0 M.ha by chemical degradation and about 12 M.ha by physical degradation (Yadav, 2007). 
  • Loss of fertile top soil by water erosion  is about 5000 M.tons per year of which about 29% is lost into sea, 10% deposited in reservoirs, 59% is deposited as alluvium.
  • About 3.5% of the total land area is affected by water logging and 18.2 M.ha are wastelands not suitable for agricultural production.
  • Chemical degradation of the soil due to human intervention is around 13.6 M. ha of which salinization accounts for 10.1 M.ha, and nutrient and organic carbon loss in 3.7 m.ha.
  • Salinity and alkalinity are soil problems associated with low rainfall and high evaporative demand, improper drainage and excessive flooding causing significant loss to crop and soil productivity 
  • More than 90% of NEH region is acidic of varying degrees which restrict the crop choice. Fertilizer use in the region and its efficiency are poor.
  • Poor structural stability of the fine textured clay soils (Vertisols) renders agricultural practices very difficult.
  • Unscientific crop intensification with imbalanced use of fertilizers has led to much management related nutrient problems like decline in productivity and sustainability,  
  • Extensive use of ground water through tube wells has resulted in significant lowering of water table which could result in serious productivity declines during low rainfall years. 

Estimated area (M ha) affected with Soil Physical Constraints

 Estimated area (M ha) affected with Soil Physical Constraints
Constraint Area Distribution Crusting 10.25 Haryana, Punjab, West Bengal, Orissa, Gujarat Hardening 21.57 Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar Sub-surface hardpan 11.34 Maharashtra, Punjab, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, TN Shallow depth 26.4 Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Kerala & Gujarat High permeability 13.75 Rajasthan, West Bengal, Gujarat, Punjab& Tamil Nadu Water logging 6.24 MP, Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, Kerala, Orissa

Soil degradation and related production constraints

 The country accounts for >2 % of world soil resources with ample diversity in agro climatic condition for producing wide range of crops and vegetation. Several soil and management related constraints, however, hinder sustainable production of food and fodder. Physical degradation like soil erosion, soil crusting and compaction, chemical degradation like loss of organic matter, soil fertility, multi nutrient depletion and deficiencies, salt accumulation, pollution, etc., are some of the major soil and management-related problems reported which account for nearly 60% (188 M.ha) of the total land area (Table). Soil group Soil order Land area(M.ha) Soil related constraints Red and lateritic soils Inceptisols, AlfisolsUltisols 172.2 Erosion by water, weak soil structure, nutrient imbalances, low OM, crusting, compaction, acidification, P fixation, loss of bases (Ca, K, Mg), nutrient (Fe, Al, Mn, H2S) toxicities Black soils Vertisols, Inceptisols 73.5 Massive structure, poor tilth, drought stress, water erosion, nutrient deficiencies, salt accumulation,  Tarai Soils Mollisols 8.0 Micronutrient deficiency, Alluvial soils Entisols, Inceptsols 58.4 Erosion, nutrient depletion, low OM, secondary salinization Desert soils Aridisols, Entisols 30.0 Drought stress, nutrient depletion, wind erosion, desertification, secondary salinization   Soil acidification is a natural soil-forming process accelerated by high rainfall, low evaporation, leaching of bases, and high oxidative biological activity that produces acid. The soil acidity plays major role in determining the nutrient availability to plants and in many instances by specific mineral stress problems. Production constraints are more intense on acid soils, which cover 30% of the world’s land area. Acid soil infertility is a syndrome of problems that affect plant growth in soils with low pH. This co

Distribution of micronutrients deficiencies across AEZ

Distribution of micronutrients deficiencies across AEZ indicate zinc deficiency to be about 40% in 1, 2, 5,15,16,18,and 19 zones; 40-50% in 9,11and 12 zones; 50-55% in 4, 7, and 13,  and 55% in the remaining zones.
Soils of indo-gangetic plains showed 55, 47 and 36% zinc deficiency in trans-northern, central and eastern parts of IGP, while boron deficiency is 8, 37 and 68% in these regions of IGP.
Boron deficiency varies from 2 % in AER 2; 24-48 % in highly calcareous soils of AEZ 2, 9, and 14 and is most wide spread (39-68 %) in red and lateritic soils of AEZ 6,13,16,17 and 19.
Deficiencies of Cu and Mn were found sporadic. 
The problem of Fe and Mn deficiency has emerged in Trans-northern IGP (zone 9) more so under rice-wheat cropping while most of the soils tested adequate in available iron.
Its deficiency in all AEZs as well as toxicity in some coastal, submontane and red-lateritic soils is quite common (Table)

Table 6:Extent of micronutrient deficiencies in different Agro-Ecological Zones (AEZ) of India


Agroecological zones

Soil type

Per cent deficiency




Micronutrient status of Indian soils

Systematic survey and analysis of more than 2.50 lakh soil samples in 20 states by All India Coordinated Research Project indicated deficiency of zinc to the extent of 49%, 33% of B, 13, 7 and 4% of samples rating low in Fe, Mo, and Mn. 
These, in general, point to the micronutrient problems, the extent and severity could, however, vary across soil types, agro ecological zones and more importantly management and productivity of crops and cropping systems.
Coarse texture, calcareous, low organic carbon content, high pH and excessive leaching often accentuate zinc deficiency.
It is wide spread in the   calcareous soils of Bihar, Vertisols and Inceptisols of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Alfisols of Karnataka, swell-shrink soils of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, and Aridisols of Haryana resulting in low crop yields.
Zinc is a crucial component of the package of practices recommended for sodic soils reclamation.
Deficiencies of Fe, Mn and Cu are much less extensive than that to zinc.

Table 4: Total and available micronutrient contents in benchmark soils of India


Total contents (mg/kg)

Available contents(mg/kg)



EIS,Package of Practices,Soils


Nutrient mining status

  • Besides this, nutrient losses through various means are alarmingly large which are rarely taken into account. 
  • The soil fertility status of Indian soils has declined drastically over the years following the era of green revolution and is marked by a negative balance of 8-10 M. tons between nutrients removed by the crops and those added through manures and fertilizers leading to mining of soil nutrient capital and steady reduction in soil nutrient supplying capacity. 
  • The loss through soil erosion is second to nutrient removal by crops. 
  • About 8 M t of plant nutrients are lost through water erosion of soil (5.3 billion t) while estimates of leaching and gaseous losses are not available. 
  • Even in well managed cropping systems like rice-wheat raised on currently recommended nutrient levels, depletion of soil fertility has been reported .
  • Considering the projected food grain demand and fertilizer consumption by 2010 and 2025, this gap is likely to increase to 11 and 13.3 Mt of NPK, respectively.  
  • The situation is further aggravated by the depletion of major soil nutrients like N and K in intensive cropping systems and emergence of wide spread deficiencies of secondary (S, Ca) and micronutrients (Zn, Fe, Mn, Cu and B). 
  • Soil test data available for major part of the country for the major nutrients (N, P, K) show that 89 and 80% of the soils are low to medium in N and P, and about 50% of the soils are responsive to K supply . District wise soil fertility status of Indian soils also indicates a similar trend .
Table 2: Percentage of soil samples (total 4.54 M) in different categories of nutrient availability Nutrient Low Medium High Nutrient Index Nitrogen 63.1 25.6 11.3 1.48 Phosphorous 42.3 37.7 20.0 1.78 Potassium 12.9 36.7 50.4 2.37        <1.67 index and >2.33 refer to low an

Soil resources

 India’s share of soil resources of the world is about 2.3% (geographical area – 329M.ha) supporting 17 and 16% of human population and livestock, respectively. The soils are mainly represented by red and lateritic soils (Alfisols, Ultisols, and Inceptisols – 172.2 M. ha), black soils (Vertisols and their associations – 73.5M.ha), alluvial soils (Entisols and Inceptisols – 58.4 M.ha), desert soils (mostly Aridisols and Entisols – 30M.ha) and Tarai Soils (Mollisols – 8.0 M.ha) (Table 1).    

Soil order

Area (M.ha)
































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