Mobile Soil Testing Units Benefit Farmers; No More Waiting for Days to Know Soil Health
Many farmers in Karnataka are using mobile soil testing units of Krishi Tantra. KrishiRASTAA, a portable automated system, that uses soil as an input, provides macro and micro nutrients reports within 45 minutes.
Shrinivas Deshpande 4 March 2023 8:01 AM GMT
Ballarwad (Dharwad), Karnataka
Pravin Sherewad is a happy farmer. Not only has his cost of production come down, but the health of the soil in his six acres of farmland in Ballarwad village has also improved. This transformation has been brought about by a simple, yet often ignored practice of soil testing.
Two years ago, the farmer from Dharwad district of Karnataka, got the soil of his land tested, which has helped him reduce his expenses. He said the exercise took barely a couple of minutes and he now exactly knows what and how much help in the way of fertilisers his land required.
“Before I began testing the soil on my land, I wasted huge amounts of money on fertilisers. But not any more,” Sherewad told Gaon Connection.
A large number of farmers in Karnataka are making use of mobile soil testing units of Krishi Tantra. The company manufactures soil testing machines that help farmers in north Karnataka, improve the soil health of their fields, and consequently their yield.
Krishi Tantra has about 408 partner centres in around 22 states across India delivering soil testing facilities to the farmer community. There are 321 FPOs (Farmer producer Organisations) associated with Krishi Tantra to do this. Through these partners, Krishit Tantra has performed more than 39,283 soil tests till mid-2022.
Land degradation and soil health
Soil health is crucial for crop productivity, and the economic and social development of the country. However, due to increased pressure of cultivation and an excess use of fertilisers and pesticides, soil health in several regions of the country is in poor condition.
A national database on land degradation prepared by the Indian Space Research Organisation in 2016 shows that 120.7 million hectare (mha), or 36.7 per cent of India’s total arable and non-arable land, suffers from various forms of degradation with water erosion being its chief contributor in 83 mha (68.4 per cent).
According to New Delhi-based National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), the annual soil loss rate in our country is about 15.35 tonnes per ha. This results in a loss of 5.37 to 8.4 million tonnes of nutrients. The loss of soil has a major impact on crop productivity.
Further, indiscriminate use of urea and fertiliser is degrading the soil quality in the country.
The automated soil testing technology Krishi Tantra has brought in is called KrishiRASTAA (Rapid Automated Soil Testing Agronomy Advisory). It does soil sampling analysis for farmers based on topography.
The start-up also provides technical assistance to small-scale farmers at affordable rates in form of high yielding, disease resistant varieties of saplings/seeds, inputs and extension services for the management of agro-based activities and marketing support for the agricultural products.
The KrishiRASTAA technology is easy to use and is a portable way to determine soil health. It is an automated system that uses soil as the input after which it provides all macro and micro nutrients reports within 45 minutes. This system requires no expertise to operate, and generates reports and is a cloud based interpretation.
Kalmeshwar Farmers Producers Company (KFPC), an FPO that is based in Navalgund district of Dharwad, is the primary implementing authority of Krishi Tantra in Karnataka.
“In 2021, the company performed 120 soil tests across 20 villages in Dharwad district. The target for 2022 was at least 2,000 soil testings,” said Mruthyunjay S, CEO of Kalmeshwar Farmers Producers Company (KFPC).
According to officials at Krishi Tantra, the focus on the soil health and recommendations on fertiliser use, has increased the crop yield up to 8.3 per cent and profit by 31 per cent. They also claimed that the consumption of urea had decreased by 33 per cent.
Soil testing within 45 minutes
KFPC has four soil testing units through which it provides soil testing facilities to the farmers.
While the government, under the Soil Health Card scheme, has been issuing soil health cards to farmers after testing soil from their land, it has been a tedious process.
“In order to get the soil health card, the farmers have to bring soil samples to the agriculture department labs and the entire process takes around 10-20 days,” said Mallikarjun G, Sustainability and Impact head of Krishi Tantra. With Krishi Tantra’s soil testing unit, the process just takes 45 minutes from start to finish, he said.
The unit tests the soil for its pH content, organic carbon, organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, sulphur, micro nutrients and electric connectivity. “This will help farmers fix the quantity of manure and fertiliser needed for different crops,” Mallikarjun explained.
The unit, which costs Rs 2.50 lakh comprises chemical solutions, powders, testing equipment with a mobile using interface. Each unit can test nine to ten samples a day. As of now, KFPC is charging Rs 150 for its members to test one soil sample and Rs 250 for other farmers.
Soil Health Card Scheme
The Indian government launched the Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme in 2015 with a budget outlay of Rs 568 crore under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture. This scheme aims to regulate and minimise the use of fertiliser.
By the end of 2019, the Indian government had distributed 235 million SHCs. This card, which is issued to a farmer after an analysis of his / her land, has recommendations on dosage of different nutrients needed and encourages farmers to use fertilisers according to soil deficiencies.
However, Krishi Tantra’s mobile soil testing is quick with results. Krishi Tantra’s soil testing facility has been a boon to many farmers who are otherwise reluctant to spend days running around having soil tested at government labs.
“We first have to wait to have the soil tested and then wait for another 20 to 30 days to get the reports,” farmer Prakash Shanwad from Ballarwad village, said. He was all praises for KFPC as he got the reports on the soil within an hour. “This not only saves our time but also gives us recommendations on what our soil actually requires," Shanwad said.
Till mid-2022, over 39, 283 farmers had utilised the soil testing facility through the Krishi Tantra partner centres. Of this, 9,703 are from Karnataka followed by 5,379 from Bihar and 5,288 from Telangana.
As a part of its long term goal, Krishi Tantra also wants to develop soil health maps of all states/ mandals in the country, as well as in SouthEast Asia that could be updated on a yearly basis. This will be useful to decide cropping patterns of the particular region.
It was in 2017, when a team of young engineers established a startup called Krishi Tantra, in Dharwad district of Karnataka. The venture received Rs 3.6 crore funding from NABVENTURES, an alternative investments arm of NABARD. NABVENTURES supports early-to-mid stage companies in agriculture, food, waste management, rural development, etc.
This story has been done as part of a partnership with NABARD