Threat to food basket

Results about Punjab’s soil fertility have come to light in a survey, stirring concerns about future of crop yields


Editorial December 23, 2019

Some disturbing results about Punjab’s soil fertility have come to light in a survey commissioned by the provincial government, stirring concerns about future of crop yields. The technical survey has found that, because of unbalanced and insufficient use of fertilizer, the natural reserves of organic matter in the land have dropped to alarming levels. As a consequence, the soil has become extremely deficient in potassium and other minerals because of which the productivity of crops is not increasing.

A laboratory testing of two million terrestrial samples collected from across the province has proved that nitrogen levels in the soil have gone down to 98%, phosphorus deficiency has hit 90%, potassium scarcity has reached 53% while zinc levels have dipped to 70%. Besides, out of one million agricultural tube wells surveyed, water from 66% of them was found to be unfit for agricultural use.

The soil fertility situation in a province called food basket of Pakistan is certainly a matter of grave concern. In a fitting response, the provincial government has ordered the agricultural department to conduct what is known as a ‘soil series survey’. It refers to a group of soils with similar profiles developed from similar parent materials under comparable climatic and vegetational conditions.

When one such survey was conducted in 1972, Punjab was divided into 105 series. The one carried out in 2018, the number of soil series had reached 800. Because of the growing deficiency of organic compounds, it is expected that the number of series will exceed 1,000 under the current conditions.

Experts believe that the downgrading ecological situation, depleting groundwater levels and declining fertility of soil make it ever more essential to go for crop diversification. The government needs to promote growing of less water consuming crops.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2019.

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