To commemorate World Soil Day and to campaign on the theme “Keep Soil alive, Protect Soil Biodiversity” MSSRF organized a webinar on 3rd December 2020. The webinar aimed to create awareness on the importance of maintaining healthy soils by addressing challenges in soil management and to prevent soil biodiversity loss to proactively improve soil health.
It is vital to preserve the soil biodiversity which includes a myriad organism: micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes, meso-fauna such as nematodes, mites and springtails, as well as macro-fauna such as earthworms and termites. All of these act as primary driving agents for enhancing nutrient cycling and regulating the dynamics of soil organic matter, soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission etc. In addition, they contribute to the plant growth and reduce yield gap.
Prof D J Bagyaraj, Chairman of Centre of Natural Biological Resources and Community Development, Bangalore, spoke about the diverse macro, meso and micro fauna dwelling in the soil and their role in ecological functions. He also spoke about the “Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas” which illustrates the diversity of soil organisms, explains their geographical and temporal distribution, the ecosystem functions and services provided by soil biota and more importantly, the myriad of threats to soil biodiversity. Dr M Madhu, Head and Principal Scientist of Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation (IISWC), Odisha spoke about natural resource management practices for enhancing productivity, soil erosion control, and enhancing carbon sequestration. He explained how interventions such as mixed cropping systems, conservative furrows that contribute to soil moisture conservation significantly protect soil health and its biodiversity. Dr V Srinivasan, Principal Scientist, Soil Science Division, Indian Institute of Spice Research, (IISR) Kozhikode, spoke on soil health and crop disease management practices for increasing productivity in spices. Intensification of spices cultivation significantly impacted soil micronutrients, crop growth and yield. An in-house capsule formulation of Biofertilizer and biopesticide has been developed by IISR, which exhibits greater potential for better management of the crop disease compared to the existing powder and liquid formulations. Dr V R , Principal Scientist, MSSRF, spoke about the role of root-associated microbiome in soil and plant health management. She highlighted the various steps involved in isolation, characterization, field testing and commercialization of the identified strains, demystification of production technology and technology transfer to Women self-help groups, particularly rural women farmers for income generation. Around 25 scientists and young professionals involved in the project participated and benefited from the webinar.
This event reiterated the World Soil Day campaign, Keep Soil alive and Protect Soil Biodiversity. Thus, maintaining soil biodiversity, an important regulator of -ecosystem functions, not only improves sustainability of production systems, but also meets the consumer needs to produce high quality and safe food.