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Soil Degradation in India: Challenges and Potential Solutions

Centre for Environment Science & Climate Resilient Agriculture, NRL Building, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi 110 012, India
Central Soil & water Conservation Research & Training Institute, Dehradun 248 195, India
Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswa-Vidayala, Kalyani, West Bengal 741 235, India
Central Research Institute on Dryland Agriculture, Hyderabad, Telangana 500 059, India
ICAR Research Complex for North Eastern Hill Region, Imphal, Manipur 795 004, India
National Bureau of Soil Survey & Land Use Planning, Kolkata Regional Center, Kolkata 700 091, India
National Bureau of Soil Survey & Land Use Planning, Bangalore Regional Center, Bangalore 560 024, India
Division of Soil Physics, Indian Institute of Soil Science, Bhopal 462 038, India
USDA-ARS, Plant Science Research Unit, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Marc A. Rosen
Sustainability 2015, 7(4), 3528-3570;
Received: 16 November 2014 / Revised: 9 February 2015 / Accepted: 27 February 2015 / Published: 25 March 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Enhancing Soil Health to Mitigate Soil Degradation)
Soil degradation in India is estimated to be occurring on 147 million hectares (Mha) of land, including 94 Mha from water erosion, 16 Mha from acidification, 14 Mha from flooding, 9 Mha from wind erosion, 6 Mha from salinity, and 7 Mha from a combination of factors. This is extremely serious because India supports 18% of the world’s human population and 15% of the world’s livestock population, but has only 2.4% of the world’s land area. Despite its low proportional land area, India ranks second worldwide in farm output. Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries account for 17% of the gross domestic product and employs about 50% of the total workforce of the country. Causes of soil degradation are both natural and human-induced. Natural causes include earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, avalanches, landslides, volcanic eruptions, floods, tornadoes, and wildfires. Human-induced soil degradation results from land clearing and deforestation, inappropriate agricultural practices, improper management of industrial effluents and wastes, over-grazing, careless management of forests, surface mining, urban sprawl, and commercial/industrial development. Inappropriate agricultural practices include excessive tillage and use of heavy machinery, excessive and unbalanced use of inorganic fertilizers, poor irrigation and water management techniques, pesticide overuse, inadequate crop residue and/or organic carbon inputs, and poor crop cycle planning. Some underlying social causes of soil degradation in India are land shortage, decline in per capita land availability, economic pressure on land, land tenancy, poverty, and population increase. In this review of land degradation in India, we summarize (1) the main causes of soil degradation in different agro-climatic regions; (2) research results documenting both soil degradation and soil health improvement in various agricultural systems; and (3) potential solutions to improve soil health in different regions using a variety of conservation agricultural approaches. View Full-Text
Keywords: land degradation; soil erosion; conservation agriculture; agroforestry; nutrient management; sustainable crop intensification land degradation; soil erosion; conservation agriculture; agroforestry; nutrient management; sustainable crop intensification
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Bhattacharyya, R.; Ghosh, B.N.; Mishra, P.K.; Mandal, B.; Rao, C.S.; Sarkar, D.; Das, K.; Anil, K.S.; Lalitha, M.; Hati, K.M.; Franzluebbers, A.J. Soil Degradation in India: Challenges and Potential Solutions. Sustainability 2015, 7, 3528-3570.

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