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Sunday 19 January 2020

Agriculture turns to technology

New Delhi — Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh launched 3 web portals — soil health card portal, fertiliser quality control system portal and participatory guarantee system (India) portal — today.

The minister informed the Press about the details and functioning of the web portals.

Soil Health Card Portal (to view State-wise data on Soil Health Card, click here)

The portal has been developed for registration of soil samples, recording test results of soil samples and generation of Soil Health Card (SHC) along with fertiliser recommendations. This is a single, generic, uniform, web based software that can be accessed here.

It is a workflow-based application with following major modules:

  1. Soil samples registration;
  2. Test result entry by soil testing labs;
  3. Fertiliser recommendations based on STCR and GFR;
  4. Soil health card generation along with fertiliser recommendation and micronutrient suggestions, and
  5. MIS module for monitoring progress.

It promotes uniform adoptions of codes, for example, census codes for locations. The system has sample tracking feature and will provide alerts to farmers about sample registration and generation of soil health card through SMS and email.

The portal aims to generate and issue soil health cards based on either the Soil Test-Crop Response (STCR) formulae developed by ICAR or general fertiliser recommendations provided by state governments. Based on test results, these recommendations will be calculated automatically by the system. Micronutrients suggestions will also be provided by the system that envisages building up a single national database on soil health for future use in research and planning.

Funding

The scheme has been approved for implementation during the 12th Plan with an outlay of Rs 568.54 crore.  For the current year (2015-16) an allocation of Rs 96.46 crore (GoI share) has been made.  The scheme will be implemented on 50:50 sharing pattern between GoI and State governments.

At present, general fertiliser recommendations are followed by farmers for primary nutrients [nitrogen-type (N), phosphorus-type (P) and potassium-type (K)]. However, secondary and micro nutrients are often overlooked leading to deficiency of nutrients like sulphur, zinc and boron. This has become a limiting factor in increasing food productivity. Keeping this in view, the government is promoting soil test based balanced and judicious use of chemical fertilizers, along with bio-fertilizers and locally available organic manures.

The government provides assistance to States for setting up and strengthening of soil testing laboratories. Some of the States have been issuing soil health cards, but there was no uniform norm for sampling, testing and distribution of the same across the States. It is for the first time that the Union government has launched this card scheme to cover 14,00,00,000 holdings once in a cycle of 3 years to promote soil management practices and restore soil health.

The scheme will provide assistance to State governments to issue SHCs and also develop a database to improve service delivery. It supplements the ongoing scheme to create and strengthen capacity in terms of rapid and low cost diagnostic techniques, mobile laboratories, portable soil testing kits and referral labs.  It provides improved and targeted guidelines to manage deficiencies and scientific expertise in diagnostic and management of nutrients deficiencies.

Nationally agreed norms and standards of 10 ha for rain-fed areas and 2.5 ha for irrigated areas will be applied for soil sample collection. By implication, a total of 2.53 crore samples will be collected and tested to generate 14 crore soil health cards to individual farmers, once in 3 years.  The target for the year 2015-16 is 84 lakh of samples, against which 34 lakh samples have already been collected.

In order to mobilise manpower and soil test infrastructure, the DAC is pooling the resources of ICAR and also that of State governments. Thus, all ICAR institutions including KVKs, State government laboratories and State agriculture universities will participate in this important national programme. Facilitation of participation by the students of science colleges and chemistry departments of the general universities under the banner of ‘earn while you learn’ has also been proposed. Suitable guidelines will be issued to this effect.

Fertiliser quality control system portal

The FQCS is a web-based and configurable workflow application developed by NIC for processing of sample collection, testing and generation of analysis reports. The application can be accessed here.

The fertiliser inspectors of CFQC&TI and RFCLs draw samples of imported fertilisers at the ports as per sampling procedures laid down in the FCO, assign a code number to the sample and obtain acknowledgement from the importer on Form J. The sample is sent to the Central Coding Office (CFQC&TI) along with Form K. The Central Coding Officer then assigns a new code number to the sample and sends the sample for analysis to the laboratory. This ensures anonymity and confidentiality of the sample. The sample is analysed by the qualified analyst and submits the report to the concerned laboratory-in-charge. On receipt of the analysis report from the laboratory, the Central Coding Office decodes with respect to the original code no. and prepares analysis report in Form L. The analysis report is then dispatched to all the concerned agencies.

The FQCS application will lead to automation of most of the manual activities as listed above and help in online tracking the status of the sample. The mobile application has also been provided to enable inspectors to enter the details of the samples in Form J while at the ports itself. The role based access to the system for users and computerized generation of sample code number have been provided for the purpose of security.

In the first phase, the system will be implemented in CFQC&TI and its three RFCLs. Subsequently, the system will be extended to all the State quality control laboratories.

Fertilisers play an important role in catalysing agriculture productivity of the soil.  To ensure availability of quality fertilisers to farmers, the fertiliser was declared as an essential commodity in 1957. In sequel, the fertiliser (Control) order (FCO) was promulgated in March 1957 under section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act (ECA), 1955 to regulate quality, trade and distribution of fertilisers in the country. The FCO has since been revised and re-enacted in the year 1985.

The FCO provides for specification of all fertilizers manufactured or imported and sold in the country; compulsory registration of fertilizer manufacturers, importers and dealers; methods of sampling and analysis of fertilizers; appointment of fertilizer inspectors; establishment of fertiliser quality control laboratories; and restrictions on the manufacture/import and sale of fertilizers not in conformity with the laid down specifications.

At present, there are 78 notified FQCLs in the country. Out of these, 4 viz. Central Fertilizer Quality Control & Training Institute (CFQC&TI) and its three Regional Fertilizer Control Laboratories (RFCLs) located at Navi Mumbai, Chennai and Kalyani are under the control of Central government and the remaining are under the control of different State governments.

India imports large quantity of various fertilisers to meet the demands. About 25-30% of the requirement of Urea, 90% of the requirement of DAP and 100% of the requirement of MOP are met by imports. The CFQC&TI and its three RFCLs are assigned the responsibility to check the quality of imported fertilisers. The laboratories of the State governments check the quality of fertilisers by drawing samples from indigenous sources viz. manufacturing units, retailers/wholesalers, godowns etc.

Participatory Guarantee System – India Portal

This is a process of certifying organic products which ensures agriculture production process in accordance with the standards laid down for organic products and that desired quality has been maintained.  This is exhibited in the form of documented logo or a statement. In order to promote domestic organic market growth and also to enable small and marginal farmer to have easy access to organic certification, a decentralized organic farming certification system called PGS-India is implemented by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. It is cost-effective, farmer- friendly and hassle-free. It is outside the framework of third party system of certification, which is a prerequisite to enter export market of organic produce.

It is a quality assurance initiative that is locally relevant with active participation of stakeholders including producers/farmers, traders and consumers in certification system.  This group certification system is supported by Paramaparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) scheme.   It in a way supports domestic demand for organic produce and trains the farmers in document management and adherence to other requirements of certification process and prepares him to opt for third party certification, if he wishes to go for export.

For online operation of this certification system a web portal has been created.  This web portal has online facility for

  1. Registration,
  2. Approval,
  3. Documentation,
  4. Record of inspection and
  5. Certification.

It will promote transparency in certification process. It will lead to creation of a database of organic producers and area under PGS certification with due traceability.

Ministers of States for Agriculture, Dr Sanjeev Kumar Balyan and Mohanbhai Kalyanjibhai Kundariya were present on the occasion, too.

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