Exploring Indian Agriculture: Soil Health (Video)

Go inside a project with the Tata Center Agriculture Team, which is developing solutions for Indian farmers

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series. See Part 2 here.

“Out of the 140 million farms in India, only 10% have ever done soil health testing,” says Dr. Chintan Vaishnav. “This is like saying only 10% of our population has ever gone to a doctor.”

Vaishnav leads the Tata Center’s Agriculture Team, an interdisciplinary group of graduate students and faculty members interested in finding ways to make farming more sustainable, efficient, and profitable for the millions of small-acreage farmers in India. Their focus is on low-cost soil diagnostics, which the team believes is a key reason why crop production in India lags behind other nations.

Unlike Europe, the United States, and other developed regions where large-scale, highly-mechanized corporate farming has become the norm, the foundation of Indian agriculture is still small, independently-owned farms, many one acre or less in size. More than half of India’s total labor force works in agriculture, but this enormous population accounts for less than 15% of the country’s total GDP. In other words, hundreds of millions of people do this grueling, essential work for little pay.

“India has become an enormous food exporter, one of the largest food exporters in the world,” says Tata Fellow Ron Rosenberg. “But they’re doing it at really low efficiencies.”

Understanding the composition of their soil helps farmers plant, fertilize, and irrigate with greater efficiency–something that can make all the difference for small-acreage landholders in India and the millions of laborers they employ. The Tata Center Agriculture Team is studying soil health as a key issue in India’s farming ecosystem, and developing solutions that will make soil testing accessible to many of these farmers for the first time.

More videos on the Tata Center Youtube channel