India offers farmers soil tests to boost yields
India will provide soil testing for farmers to target the correct use of fertilizers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday, to push up yields and cut back on costly misuse.
New Delhi: India will provide soil testing for farmers to target the correct use of fertilizers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday, to push up yields and cut back on costly misuse.
The service will be available to around 60 percent of its 235 million farmers, Modi said on a visit to the desert state of Rajasthan, stressing the importance of soil health to lift India`s poor farm productivity. Agriculture employs more than half of India`s 1.25 billion people but accounts for only 14 percent of its $2.3 trillion economy.
The finance minister was likely to allocate $32 million for the project in this fiscal year`s budget on Feb. 28, a senior official said.
Smart cards can be issued to 140 million farmers in three years after testing soil for productivity, mineral mix, water capacity and salinity, and can be presented to government fertilise suppliers.
Sudhir Panwar, president of a farmers` lobby group, said the card will cut misuse of subsidised fertiliser. This could also help the government trim its fertiliser bill of around $10 billion.
Modi said a farmer with a holding of 1.2 hectares could save 50,000 rupees ($805) per year, if the right amount of nutrients were applied.
Reuters reported last year that Modi, who popularised the programme in the state of Gujarat that he ran, was likely to roll it out across the country.
Gujarat`s farm output grew at an annual average of 6 percent over the past three years - about a percentage point higher than the national figure.
Modi has urged agriculture scientists and farmers to usher in India`s second green revolution after the first one in the 1960s that saw India more than treble its annual wheat output in just 15 years.