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Research Project: Strategies to Predict and Manipulate Responses of Crops and Crop Disease to Anticipated Changes of Carbon Dioxide, Ozone and Temperature

Location: Plant Science Research

Title: Soil degradation in India: Challenges and potential solutions

Author
item Bhattacharyya, Ranjan - Indian Agricultural Research Institute
item Ghosh, B - Central Soil And Water Conservation Research And Training Institute
item Mishra, P - Central Soil And Water Conservation Research And Training Institute
item Mandal, Biswapati - Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidayala University
item Rao, Chstinivasa - Indian Council Of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
item Sarkar, Dibyendu - Indian Council Of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
item Das, K - Indian Council Of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
item Anil, K - Indian Council Of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
item Lalitha, M - Indian Council Of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
item Hati, K - Indian Council Of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
item Franzluebbers, Alan

Submitted to: Sustainability
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/27/2015
Publication Date: 3/25/2015
Citation: Bhattacharyya, R., Ghosh, B.N., Mishra, P.K., Mandal, B., Rao, C., Sarkar, D., Das, K., Anil, K.S., Lalitha, M., Hati, K.M., Franzluebbers, A.J. 2015. Soil degradation in India: Challenges and potential solutions. Sustainability. 7:3528-3570.

Interpretive Summary: Soil degradation in India is widespread due to a number of natural and human-induced factors. Agricultural practices contributing to soil degradation are excessive tillage, use of heavy machinery, excessive and unbalanced use of inorganic fertilizers, poor irrigation and water management techniques, pesticide overuse, inadequate crop residue and/or organic carbon inputs, and poor crop cycle planning. A USDA-ARS scientist from Raleigh, North Carolina teamed up with a group of scientists from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi, the Central Soil & Water Conservation Research & Training Institute in Dehradun, the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswa-Vidayala in West Bengal, the Central Research Institute on Dryland Agriculture in Hyderabad, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in Manipur, the National Bureau of Soil Survey & Land Use Planning in Kolkata and Bangalore, and the Indian Institute of Soil Science in Bhopal. This manuscript reviews the main causes of soil degradation in different agro-climatic regions, documents both soil degradation and soil health improvement in various agricultural systems, and offers solutions to improve soil health in different regions of India using a variety of conservation agricultural approaches. Reversal of soil degradation in India could reap enormous benefits for the citizens of India and around the world including the USA, but requires understanding the complexity of social issues interacting with natural resources, including land shortage, decline in per capita land availability, economics-driven pressures on land, land tenancy, poverty, and population increase.

Technical Abstract: Soil degradation in India is estimated to occur on 147 Mha of land, including 94 Mha from water erosion, 16 Mha from acidification, 14 Mha from flooding, 9 Mha from wind erosion, 6 Mha from salinity, and 7 Mha from a combination of factors. India supports 18% of the world’s human population and 15% of the world’s livestock population, but has only 2.4% of the world’s land area. Despite its low proportional land area, India ranks second worldwide in farm output. Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries account for 17% of the gross domestic product and about 50% of the total workforce of the country. Causes of soil degradation are both natural and human induced. Natural causes include earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, avalanches, landslides, volcanic eruptions, floods, tornadoes, and wildfires. Human-induced soil degradation results from land clearing and deforestation, inappropriate agricultural practices, improper management of industrial effluents and wastes, over-grazing, careless management of forests, surface mining, urban sprawl, and commercial/industrial development. Inappropriate agricultural practices include excessive tillage and use of heavy machinery, excessive and unbalanced use of inorganic fertilizers, poor irrigation and water management techniques, pesticide overuse, inadequate crop residue and/or organic carbon inputs, and poor crop cycle planning. Some underlying social causes of soil degradation in India are land shortage, decline in per capita land availability, economic pressure on land, land tenancy, poverty, and population increase. In this review of land degradation in India, we intend to (1) describe the main causes of soil degradation in different agro-climatic regions, (2) describe the research results documenting both soil degradation and soil health improvement in various agricultural systems, and (3) offer solutions to improve soil health in different regions using a variety of conservation agricultural approaches.