Problems of Soil


Soil plays a central role for economic and social development. It ensures food, fodder and renewable energy supplies to sustain human, animal and plant life. As such, it needs to be cared well

According to New Delhi-based National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), the annual soil loss rate in our country is about 15.35 tonnes per ha, resulting in loss of 5.37 to 8.4 million tonnes of nutrients.


Soil in India suffers from a number of problems such as:

  1. Soil erosion
    • It is the removal of soil by forces of nature, particularly wind & water, more rapidly than the soil forming process can replace it
    • It affects agricultural productivity and economy of country as whole
  2. Water Erosion
    • It is the detachment and removal of soil material by water
    • It manifests in the form of rilling, gullying, sheetwash and rain peeling process
    • The rate of erosion depends on soil properties, slope and vegetation cover
  3. Wind Erosion
    • The blowing wind removes the top soil layer, and wind erosion is accentuated when soil is dry, weakly aggregated and devoid of vegetation cover
  4. The Human factors of soil erosion include:
    • Deforestation, that leaves the soil devoid of binding material
    • Overgrazing loosens the soil structure
    • Faulty agricultural methods such as ploughing, lack of crop rotation and practice of shifting cultivation

Deficiency in fertility

  • Indian soils are generally deficient in nitrogen and phosphorous, while high in potassium.
  • Phosphorous is low in Indo-Gangetic plains, Central and North East India.
  • Also, nitrogen deficiency is across the country, with the deficiency higher in central and southern India than in the Gangetic plains
  • Degradation of soil health has also been reported due to long-term imbalanced use of fertiliser nutrients
  • The ideal n-p-k use ratio is 4:2:1, but has gone from 6:2.4:1 in 1990 to 6.7:2.7:1 in 2016, according to a 2017 report by Fertilizer Association of India
  • The 54th report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Agriculture (2017-18) says that skewed subsidy policy in favour of urea and high prices of other fertilisers are behind the imbalance in the use of fertilisers in the country.
  • Extractive farming practices such as in-field burning of crop residues (common in north-west India), removal of crop residues are also making soil lose fertility in India


  • Desertification
    • This is the spread of desert like conditions in arid/semi-arid regions due to man’s influence or climate change
    • This process can be attributed to factors such as:
      • Uncontrolled grazing
      • Reckless felling of trees
      • Population pressures
    • It has the potential to result in excessive wind erosion, decreasing productivity and increasing frequency of droughts
  • Waterlogging
    • The flat and saucer like depressions make movement of surface water sluggish leading to accumulation of rain water, thereby resulting in waterlogging
    • Also, seepage from unlined channels or canal systems leads to waterlogging in contiguous arable lands
    • Around 12 million hectares of land suffers from waterlogging in India
    • Allowing space for horizontal and vertical drainage could help dispose excess water, and prevent Water logging
  • Salinity and Alkalinity
    • These are the result of over irrigation in irrigated areas
    • When farmers indulge in over irrigation, the ground water level rises resulting in salt deposition, due to capillary action
    • Alkalinity implies dominance of sodium salts
    • Example: due to intense irrigation, the most fertile soils in Punjab & Haryana are rendered useless due to salinity/alkalinity
    • Hence, the need to utilise water resources judiciously
  • Wasteland and urban development
    • Soil toxicity through chemicals is increasing with urbanisation.
    • More municipal and industrial wastes are being dumped in the soil with heavy metals having carcinogenic effects
    • Studies indicate the high concentration and accumulation of heavy metals in urban soils
  • Industrialisation affecting Soil
    • Industrialisation is progressively taking away considerable areas of land from agriculture, forestry, grassland and pasture, and unused lands with wild vegetation
    • Example: Opencast mining is of particular focus because it disturbs the physical, chemical, and biological features of the soil and alters the socioeconomic features of a region.
    • Also, Mineral production generates enormous quantities of waste/overburden and tailings/slimes and hence soil from a huge land area gets degraded