Welcome to Raisina House!
The Soil Health Card Scheme was launched in 2015, with the idea is to provide recommendations to farmers on how to increase the fertility of their soil by giving them crop-wise suggestions of nutrients and ratio of fertilisers to be used on the field.
It was seen that only 6% of the farmers were ready to adopt the recommendations given on soil
health cards and only if the government agrees to bear the losses in case of low production.
According to a study conducted by NITI Aayog, the reason for this is mistrust between farmers
and the government. As per Haryana Government’s data from 2018, 90% of the samples were
collected, whereas 35% of them were tested, out of which 25% of the SHCs were printed and
eventually 8% of them distributed to farmers.
The low adoption of SHC can largely be attributed to the Low number of testing labs, Lack of
manpower, particularly the field officers responsible for the collection of samples and distribution of SHCs, Lack of point of contact for the farmers at the local level. The proposed solutions for
these are further explored in the paper.
Scope of Problem
The issue of low testing is largely due to the fact that over 121 agricultural blocks in Haryana there are only 34 testing labs at present. Furthermore, soil sample collection is limited to a narrow window of 60-75 days in Kharif and 5-7 days Rabi season due to factors such as:
i. The soil collection is possible only in non-sowing period
ii. Soil moisture condition.
Therefore, the cumulative effect of time availability for sample collection and the low number of labs constrain the number of samples that can be collected and tested. This cycle of testing is to be repeated every 3rd year.
Secondly, the distribution of SHCs is limited by the staff availability, which entails the task of collecting and distributing them to the labs, There are usually just one officer per block. Therefore, there is an urgent need to deploy more manpower.
Lastly, the issue of adoption of practices; which arises primarily due to the lack of trust on SHC’s
recommendations by the farmers, given his/her land is the only source of income, it becomes
harder for them to rely on the recommendation given by the SHC without a human interface and
regular touchup with an expert.
Policy Alternatives and Recommendations
The GOI, in order to promote more testing labs, started a project called, ‘Village Level Soil
Testing Project’, to provide financial assistance upto 3/4th of the cost to entrepreneurs looking
to set up such labs. In Haryana, only 6-7 districts have such labs. Therefore, to increase testing labs, this project should be encouraged in every district, to ensure there is one lab in every block. These labs can also be used as water testing facilities at times where soil collection cannot take place, allowing for dual-purpose use and income opportunities.
Along with this, the labs can be run in two shifts during Kharif season, to ensure more samples can be collected and tested.
To ensure proper monitoring of collection, testing, the printing of SHCs and adoption, an online
portal could be made for Haryana with defined SLAs. The present GOI portal lacks some key
features like a turnaround time for samples collection and testing, with a state portal
These gaps can be covered along with additional features such as:
a. Lab wise mapping can be done of samples collected and defined KPI based on the time
taken to deliver a report from the time of registration of a farmer till the time the SHC is
b. The portal much like the GOI portal should have the option for farmers to apply for SHC
and submit their samples at the closest labs.
For distribution of SHC, tapping into existing infrastructure like CSCs would be ideal, allowing
farmers to apply for the service, get updates and collect their SHCs, The SHC service
should be linked to the revenue records as a single packet of land in practice is often owned by
multiple individuals, this would increase the probability of adoption of recommended practices,
and future-proofing from cases of ownership change..
To further increase the adoption of SHCs among farmers, the following measures can be taken:
1) SHC should be asked as a mandatory document while applying for schemes/services over Saral portal
2) Field officer should conduct demonstrations in camps organised for farmers, highlighting the benefits of adopting recommendations given by SHC
3) Sarpanches to be made nodal officers to ensure collection of sample and IEC activities like muniyandi.
4) ‘Doctor on call/ at village level’, who is an agricultural expert and can be the point of contact for farmers.