According to a recent research, there is a strong connection between soil zinc and childhood stunting in India. The study, which analysed the health data of over one million adult women and nearly 300,000 children with 27 million soil assessments from all over the country, found that a one-standard-deviation increase in satisfactory soil zinc tests is associated with around 11 fewer children stunted per 1000. This is an alarming statistic that underscores the profound impact of soil health on human well-being.
The challenges of soil health management in India
Soil health is an often-underestimated contributor to food security and nutrition. It is influenced by various factors such as climate change, land use, crop rotation, fertilization, irrigation, and pest management. However, in India, soil health management faces several challenges such as lack of awareness, inadequate testing facilities, insufficient data, and poor adoption of best practices. As a result, many soils in India are deficient in essential nutrients such as zinc, iron, and boron, which affect the quality and quantity of crops.
The need for information and innovation in soil health
To address the challenges of soil health management, there is a need for information and innovation in this field. Information can help farmers to make informed decisions about soil testing, nutrient management, and crop selection. Innovation can help to develop new technologies, products, and services that can improve soil health and crop productivity. For example, biofortification, which is the process of increasing the micronutrient content of crops through breeding or genetic engineering, can be a potential solution to enhance the nutritional value of food.
The role of climate-friendly practices in soil health
Another important aspect of soil health is the adoption of climate-friendly practices that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance soil carbon sequestration. Some of these practices include conservation tillage, cover cropping, crop residue management, organic farming, and agroforestry. These practices can not only improve soil health, but also provide multiple benefits such as water conservation, biodiversity conservation, and resilience to climate shocks.
The way forward for soil health in India
Soil health is a key to India’s nutritional sufficiency and a food-secure future. It requires a holistic and integrated approach that involves various stakeholders such as farmers, scientists, policymakers, and consumers. It also requires a collaborative and coordinated effort that leverages the strengths and resources of different sectors such as agriculture, health, environment, and education. By improving soil health, India can achieve its goals of food security, nutrition security, and sustainable development.