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Pune Science Weekly: Longer duration of land fallowing could give better crop yield, finds study

Higher yields were obtained from the soil of fallowed lands than those that were regularly cultivated and harvested, the study observed.

Written by Anjali Marar | Pune |
May 25, 2022 10:01:03 pm
The physicochemical characteristics of soil are affected by the type of crop cultivated and also the agricultural practices used. (File)

A new study linking soil quality and crop yield in Pune district has suggested farmers leave land under fallowing for longer durations to help the soil rejuvenate its health, thereby improving yields. This was after higher yields were obtained from the soil of fallowed lands than those that were regularly cultivated and harvested. Along with vegetables, rice, groundnut and sugarcane are the major cultivations undertaken in Pune district during the kharif season.

The soil from these hilly terrains in Bhor was largely being used to cultivate millets like nachni, awa, hulga and varai. Fallow land is one which is left uncultivated for some months to a few years as part of crop cultivation undertaken by the farmers from time to time. In the study published in the Indian Journal of Natural Sciences, researchers analysed the effect of shifting cultivation on soil health, particularly the soil bacteria population.

The researcher’s group comprised experts from Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) and Dr DY Patil College of Arts, Commerce and Science. They studied 16 soil samples from land located in five villages — Dhamandeo, Salugan, Hirdoshi, Kondhari and Shilimb villages in Bhor tehsil.

Fallowing land for more than seven to eight years could bring the depleted soil health back to normal, the study noted. The soil health was found poorly restored if the fallowing period was less than three years than those lands with longer fallowed durations.

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Out of the eleven bacteria genuses that were isolated from these soil samples, the most prominent ones identified were Acetobacter, Kurthia, Bacillus, Frankia. Though the bacteria populations varied among soils in these surveyed villages, there was high species richness. Earlier studies of soil samples from Bhor had revealed different bacteria species as at that time, the soil was predominantly used for paddy cultivation, the experts said.

While all soil samples were found with varying bacterial populations, the researchers said that populations hugely depended on the local soil’s pH, agriculture practices, fertilizers, temperature and humidity and organic content.

” The pH of the soil was positively related to the phosphates whereas negatively related to clay. Sand was negatively related to sily and water-holding capacity. All the soils here have high diverse bacteria species,” the researchers said.

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The physicochemical characteristics of soil are affected by the type of crop cultivated and also the agricultural practices used. Soil health depends on the minerals and plant material — both of which keep transforming. The reaction of these to water along with natural biological factors decide the soil quality and its ability to ably support a good crop. Likewise, microbes equally contribute in increasing the biomass, thereby maintaining a balanced soil ecosystem suitable for the region.

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