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Soil is one of the most important natural resources and the maintenance of its health is a moral responsibility of every human being. However, industrial revolution and population explosion are the main reasons in causing an irreparable damage on soil. Excessive mineral fertilization and irrational cultural practices also contribute considerably to reduce fertility and the organic matter contents of the soil. These circumstances have led many researchers to search new and better soil management strategies. The termed concept of soil quality evokes various responses, depending on our scientific and social backgrounds.
Soil quality is an integration of soil processes and provides a measure of change in soil condition as related to factors such as land use, climate patterns, cropping sequences and farming systems.
Currently, the quality of soil is defined as the capacity of a soil to function. Soil quality can be assessed by selecting different indicators upon which the functions of soil depend. A wide range of agricultural soils represents diversely managed arable lands while the main goal is to improve soil quality, crop yield, and reduce the ecological footprint.
Soil analysis is an aid to managing soil nutrients efficiently to maintain soil fertility for those nutrients like phosphorus, potassium and magnesium that are retained in the soil (in plant available forms). Soil testing refers to the chemical analysis of soils and is well recognized as a scientific means for quick characterization of the fertility status of soils and predicting the nutrient requirement of crops.
To understand the quality of water, there are so many water quality indices available.
But unlike this, there are only a few soil quality indices are in existence. Researchers in Bishop Heber College, India have formulated a Soil Quality Index called after their names as Heber Soil Quality Index (HSQI) for the first time in India. Since we belong to Thanjavur district (the rice bowl of Tamilnadu, India), we wanted to test our own soil for the cultivation of rice and sugarcane. The main objectives of this work are to find out the suitability of the soil of the chosen area using HSQI with the view to check, the nutrients supply/excessive nutrients, etc., (ii) to offer suggestions based on the test result to improve the quality of the soils. In the present work, an attempt has been made to use the Heber Soil.
Quality Index (HSQI) to assess the suitability of a soil of a chosen area for the cultivation of rice and sugar cane. Though there are more than twenty five parameters available to ascertain the suitability of a soil for the cultivation of rice and sugarcane, only twelve parameters were considered to be more than adequate to determine the quality according to the valuable suggestions offered by agricultural scientists, soil chemists and other experts. The twelve parameters considered are available nitrogen, pH, water holding capacity (%), available phosphorus (Kg/ha), texture, available potassium (Kg/ha), organic matter (%), bacterial content (SPC/g), electrical conductance , chloride (mg/l), total hardness (mg/l) and bulk density (g/cm3). Thanjavur and Thiruvarur being the foremost districts of the Cauvery delta occupy an important position in the agricultural map of Tamil Nadu.
Since the formation of the Thanjavur district, it has been called as the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu. The farmers in the district are very progressive and innovative in adopting modern technologies and crop varieties. These districts are one of the leading districts in the state in terms of production of many crops such as paddy, sugarcane, pulses and coconut. The present work deals with the applicability of HSQI to ascertain the physico – chemical characteristics of soil samples collected from hundred places in Thanjavur and Thiruvarur districts, Tamilnadu, India with reference to the cultivation of rice and sugarcane. In the present investigation, the soil samples were taken in the rice and sugarcane fields from hundred places and twelve parameters were measured.
From these parameters, Q values and total HSQI values were calculated. The soil samples were categorized as excellent, good or bad for cultivation of rice and sugarcane on the basis values of HSQI. The overall HSQI values of all samples were found to be in the range of 66.26 – 85.72, which reveals that the quality of soils studied in this investigation is medium to good for the cultivation of rice and sugarcane. HSQI is used to determine the level of availability of nutrients in the soil, predict the increase in yields and profitability of fertilization, provide the basis for calculating the required fertilizing of each crop and evaluate the status of each nutrient element and simultaneously determine the nutrient management. This method of assessment was proved to be highly useful and cost effective.
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