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Explained: Impact of Poor Soil Management on Food Security

Dec 07, 2022


Soil degradation is inextricably linked with food security and has an adverse effect on us. In today's blog post we shall explore the impact of poor soil management on food security.

For Prelims: Environment & Agriculture
World Soil Day, Soil, Types of Soil, Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture.

For Mains: GS Paper III- Food Security
GS Paper III- Environmental Degradation 
About World Soil Day (WSD) 2022, About Soil, Types of Soil in India, Significance of Soil, Soil Degradation, Consequences of Soil Degradation, India’s conservation strategy.


Every year World Soil Day (WSD) is observed on December 5.

Probable Question

Soil degradation can have irreparable consequences on human and ecosystem health, which cannot be ignored. Elucidate. (150 words, 10 marks)

About World Soil Day (WSD) 2022

  • Theme of WSD 2022: ‘Soils: Where food begins’.
  • Objective of WSD: 
    • Raising awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy soils, ecosystems, and human well-being.
    • Addressing the growing challenges in soil management, 
    • Encouraging societies to improve soil health,
    • Advocating the sustainable management of soil.

About Soil

  • Soil is a mixture of small stone particles/debris, organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life.
  • It is also referred to as earth or dirt.
  • Soil is available in various forms, but its availability differs from place to place or the availability of its type is dependent upon the geographical environment of a place.
  • Sand, clay, silt, peat, chalk, and loam are examples of soil types.

Types of Soil in India

  • Alluvial soil, 
  • Black soil/ Regular soil/ Black cotton soil
  • Red soil, 
  • Laterite soil, 
  • Arid soil / Desert soil
  • Forest soil,
  • Mountainous soil,
  • Marsh soil/ Peaty soil,
  • Saline Soil,
  • Marine deposits.

Significance of Soil

  • Healthy soils are essential for our survival. 
  • They support healthy plant growth to enhance both our nutrition and water percolation to maintain groundwater levels. 
  • Soils help to regulate the planet’s climate by storing carbon.
  • Soils are the second largest carbon sink after the oceans. 
  • They help maintain a landscape that is more resilient to the impacts of droughts and floods. 
  • Soil health is critical for healthy food production.

Soil Degradation

  • Pollution: Today, nutrient loss and pollution significantly threaten soils, and thereby undermine nutrition and food security globally. 
  • Significant Causes: The main drivers contributing to soil degradation are industrial activities, mining, waste treatment, agriculture, fossil fuel extraction, and processing and transport emissions. 
  • Multiple Other Factors: The reasons behind soil nutrient loss range from soil erosion, runoff, leaching, and the burning of crop residues. 
  • Usage of Fertilizers: Further, excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, and irrigation with contaminated wastewater are also polluting soils. 

Consequences of Soil Degradation

  • Soil degradation in India: Degradation in some form or another affects around 29% of India’s total land area. 
  • Land-dependent communities: Degradation threatens agricultural productivity, in-situ biodiversity conservation, water quality, and the socio-economic well-being of land-dependent communities.
  • Nutrient Loss: Nearly 3.7 million hectares suffer from a nutrient loss in soil (depletion of soil organic matter, or SOM). 
  • Irreparable consequences: Impacts of soil degradation are far-reaching and can have irreparable consequences on human and ecosystem health.

India’s conservation strategy

  • The Government of India is implementing a five-pronged strategy for soil conservation. This includes making soil chemical-free, saving soil biodiversity, enhancing SOM, maintaining soil moisture, mitigating soil degradation, and preventing soil erosion. 
  • Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme: 
    • The scheme was launched in 2015 by the Government of India to literate farmers regarding soil type, soil deficiency, and soil moisture content. 
    • The SHC is used to assess the current status of soil health, and when used over time, to determine changes in soil health. 
    • The SHC displays soil health indicators and associated descriptive terms, which guide farmers to make necessary soil amendments.
  • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana: It is to prevent soil erosion, regeneration of natural vegetation, rainwater harvesting, and recharging of the groundwater table.
  • National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA): It has schemes promoting traditional indigenous practices such as organic farming and natural farming.
  • Initiatives by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): 
    • FAO undertakes multiple activities to support the Government of India’s efforts in soil conservation towards fostering sustainable agrifood systems. 
    • The FAO is collaborating with the National Rainfed Area Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoA&FW):
    • FAO collaboration aims to develop forecasting tools using data analytics that will aid vulnerable farmers in making informed decisions on crop choices, particularly in rainfed areas.
    • The FAO, in association with the Ministry of Rural Development, supports the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission’s (DAY-NRLM) Community Resource Persons to increase their capacities towards supporting on-farm livelihoods. 
    • The FAO works in eight target States, namely, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, and Punjab, for boosting crop diversification and landscape-level planning. 

Way Forward

  • Strengthening Communication: There is a need to strengthen communication channels between academia, policymakers, and society for the identification, management and restoration of degraded soils, as well as in the adoption of anticipatory measures. 
  • Cooperation: Greater cooperation and partnerships are central to ensure the availability of knowledge, sharing of successful practices, and universal access to clean and sustainable technologies, leaving no one behind. 
  • Our Responsibility: As consumers and citizens, we can contribute by planting trees to protect topsoil, developing and maintaining home/kitchen gardens, and consuming foods that are mainly locally sourced and seasonal.

News Source: The Hindu

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