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The domino effect of bad policy-making and its fallout -- unsustainable practice -- has dwindled the nutrient quality of soils in more than the obvious ways. Apart from micronutrient loss, Indian soils already weak in carbon content are today even more incapable of acting as sequesters of carbon and so reducing global warming potential.
Agriculturists in India fully realised the extent of damage micronutrient deficiency could wreak only when the fertile terai region in Uttar Pradesh missed a couple of paddy crops in 1966. Studies pinned it down to zinc deficiency. Zinc is now considered the third-most limiting nutrient after nitrogen and potash. The very next year, an All-India Coordinated Project of Primary and Secondary Nutrients and Pollutant Elements in Soils and Plants was launched by icar. About 2.5 lakh soil samples collected from 20 states since then have shown that the practice of intensive agriculture depending on hyvs, extensive use of high analysis chemical fertilisers and reduced return of farm waste to soil is compounding nutrient deficiency in soils. Soils in many parts of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh exhibited zinc deficiencies of over 60 per cent. Falling levels of other important micronutrients like boron, iron and molybdenum are also affecting yields.
Carbon content in soil is important to soil productivity. Indian soils are relatively low in carbon content: between 0.1 per cent in desert soils and 1 per cent in soils found in the humid and sub-humid climates of Kerala and some north-eastern states. A number of factors influence carbon content in soils. For instance, climate. Intensive cultivation in the Indo-Gangetic plains has led to deficiency in organic carbon.