Srinagar, Feb 12, : Even as much of the state economy is based on agriculture, the government is yet to fulfill the basic needs of farmers in Kashmir.
In most of the areas farmers associated with agriculture fails to test their soil due to lack of soil testing laboratory in their areas.
Officials at agriculture department said that despite the department collecting soil samples from both irrigated as well as non irrigated grids. The soil testing results do not come quickly and take months together due to overload on the single soil testing laboratory in the districts.
A source from the agriculture department said that thousands of farmers even never test their soil due to lack of nearest soil testing facility.
He said that the farmers feel it difficult to complete the documentation process, registration and eventually bring soil samples to the nearest agriculture office. The samples are taken to single and overburdened laboratory where soil samples are examined analysed and the results are conveyed to farmers after several months.
Farmers on the other hand complained that concerned authorities have failed to issue soil health cards to them. “There is no move from the government either to provide soil testing lab for our area or to provide us the soil health cards,” said Aijaz Ahmad Parray, a farmer of Kupwara, adding, “I have many acres of land but I never received soil testing card due to which I never tested the soil.”
South Kashmir’s Pulwama district is also known as largest rice producer of Kashmir after Kulgam district. However, the government has done nothing substantial in developing the agriculture setup of the district.
“I am associated with farming since past many decades but I never heard about soil testing. Most of the farmers have no idea about soil testing,” said Abdul Rashid a farmer who claims to have 12 kanals of paddy land in Awantipora.
Another farmer Ghulam Mohammad of Tral said that he has to travel almost 20 kilometers to take sample to district soil testing center Pulwama. “Every farmer in our area cannot travel long distance to test the soil of his paddy land. It becomes hectic and expensive exercise,” he added.
According to official data, Jammu and Kashmir has almost six technical controlled soil testing laboratories at various districts—Baramulla, Pulwama, Anantnag, Budgam and one direct controlled soil testing laboratory at Lalmandi, Srinagar. Most of these laboratories are providing soil testing results in respect of major nutrients only. These laboratories lack sophisticated facilities for analysing micro-nutrients.
Soil testing methods were started in India in 1955-56 but the J&K Union Territory is yet to introduce it at various areas, affecting the agriculture production. Farmers complained that they are unaware of the soil testing methods which could have helped them use their land more judiciously. The farmers complained that concerned authorities have failed to generate awareness among them
Farmers face a lot of difficulties in the absence of awareness. “Despite that we have got five soil testing laboratories in Kashmir, there is no concept of soil testing in our fields. Hence, the concerned departments must be proactive to inform farmers about the soil testing methods across Kashmir,” a farmer Mohammad Ayoub said.
According to Union Agricultural Ministry report, till 2015 there were 661 soil testing laboratories in India, whereas 120 mobile vans operated in 608 districts with an annual sample analysing capacity of 7.2 million. As compared to Madhya Pradesh, which remains at top in sample collection with 32867 numbers of samples, Jammu and Kashmir remained at bottom with merely 93 number of samples. “The number is quite negligible in comparison to what is the capacity of our soil testing laboratories,” said an expert.
Meanwhile, a senior official at agriculture office Lal Mandi Srinagar said that over the years the department has increased the number of soil testing laboratories in Kashmir. “In near future we are looking to provide more labs for farmers at various blocks,” he said.