Low Soil Phosphorus a blow to rice security in Odisha!

Phosphorous is a lifeline for rice cultivation. Odisha is the only State in the country where the soil is low on all macro and micro nutrients, except potassium

Bhubaneswar: When rice has been the staple food of Odisha, the shocker is Odisha is witnessing a sharp deterioration of a soil nutrient that is considered lifeline for higher rice production.

The lifeline soil nutrient is Phosphorous, which is considered vital for the growth of paddy plant in its early stages. The content of this nutrient in the soil has been found to be low in almost all the districts in the State, and has been deteriorating over the years. The latest Soil Nutrition Index shows a dip in the content value to 1.35 in 2019 from 1.54 in 1997.

Significantly, the yield/hectare of rice has also recorded a decline in Odisha. The data with State Agriculture Department shows that the yield of rice per hectare had declined by 29.7 per cent in 2017-18, when the area under cultivation declined by mere 5 per cent.

The only remedy to the growing problem is increased use of phosphorous fertilisers. As per an OUAT study, farmers in most districts apply imbalanced fertilisers that has led to a lower rice yield in the State.

In the given context, the State Agriculture department has to augment the phosphorous nutrient in the soil to give a boost to the rice yield rate in the State, the study added.

State Agriculture Department data further reveals dip in use of Phosphorous fertiliser in Odisha over the years. Moreover, it also discloses that against the recommended dose of 60 kg nitrogen, 30 kg phosphorus, 30 kg potassium per hectare for high yield variety rice crops and 40kg nitrogen to 20kg each of phosphorus and potassium for normal rice crop, the actual usage has been in the ratio of 3kg nitrogen to only 1kg of phosphorus. Farmers are tempted to use more nitrogenous fertiliser in the form of urea as it is cheap, said a senior official.

It’s not phosphorous. Odisha is the only State in the country where the soil is low on nutrients like Nitrogen, Boron, Iron, Copper, Manganese, Zinc and Sulphur.

A district-wise glance shows that Mayubhanj tops the chart in Odisha with nearly 93 per cent soil samples showing low phosphorous content. It is followed by Rayagada and Koraput. Cuttack district figured in the top ten districts having low P content in soil.

In terms of low Nitrogen content,  Sundargarh topped the State where almost all the samples showed very low N content in the soil. It is followed by Bolangir and Ganjam.

Since soil health is linked with pest resilient crops, and with most impoverished soil in the country, Odisha has been seeing increased pest attacks during the last five years.