Soil is the Essence of Life and Source of Food. On the occasion of world soil day (5th December), PAN India urges Governments to come up with concerted efforts to stop usage of herbicides and restore soil through non-chemical plant management approaches.


World Soil Day Statement |  5th December 2022

Major points:

  • Over 29 percent (96.4 million hectares) of India’s total geographical area is degraded

  • Chemicalised agriculture (especially herbicides) have a role in prime agricultural land degradation.

  • Chemical toxification of soils need to be addressed at policy levels.

  • Defoliation, dessication of grass and smaller vegetation by herbicides is killing greenery which has a major role in protecting and nurturing soils and soil carbon. This is in addition to deforestation.

  • Stop herbicides to save soil, arrest top soil degradation, ensure food security and sustain life diversity

  • Restoring soil health is important to mitigate climate change induced stress

Soil is one of the indispensable natural resources for the existence of the biosphere. It is the vital component for sustainable agricultural production, ecosystem functioning and environmental quality. It hosts diverse array of organisms with diverse functions like nutrient recycling, decomposition, nutrient release and maintenance of soil structure and stability. The fertility and productivity of soil is a sum of the biological processes attributed by the interactions, exchanges and co-existence of these organisms that lives in it. Thus soil organisms are an inherent as well as an important part of soil, without which, soil is merely a dead substance comprised of minerals. However, over the past decades, less consideration has been given to the fact that soil is a dynamic living resource, although its condition is vital to agriculture production. The quality and health of soil determine agriculture sustainability, environmental quality and, as a consequence of both plant and animal as well as human health.

In present-day world, chemicalisation, urbanization, deforestation, mining and soil erosion are disrupting the equilibrium of soil structure, function and quality. The extensive use of herbicides and other agrochemicals in agricultural sites and non-cropped areas is decimating soil health. Such contaminations and biomagnification lead to irreversible consequences where these toxic chemicals are transferred into food chain, cause changes in soil nutrient levels and alterations to soil microbial activity. It also disturbs the microbial communities endangering several ecological processes in soil and alter soil fertility and sustainable agricultural productivity. For a sustainable agriculture and environmental quality, maintenance of biological features of the soil is also equally necessary.

The urge for minimise human labour and reduce cost of cultivation has been pushing rapid shift towards chemical methods of unwanted plant (weed) management. Herbicides were introduced as phytotoxic chemicals with the intent to kill the unwanted plants in agricultural fields. This has become un-environment friendly practice due to their detrimental effects. Ecotoxicological studies established the deleterious effects of herbicides on the soil biota and community structure. These are found to cause vicious impacts on soil microbes resulting in the reduction of microbial biomass thereby affecting, soil respiration, decomposition of organic matter and emissions of green house gases. Herbicides have been reported to alter the structure of forest ecosystems. These hazardous chemicals are capable of inhibiting nitrogen-fixing essential bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi. Other sensitive organisms are also affected due to off-target deposition and herbicide-drift.

Soil health is crucial for ensuring sustainable agricultural production and maintenance of biodiversity. Usage of planticides (herbicides/ weedicides) and agrochemical cocktails over the past decades has turned soil ecosystem fragile, reduced the productive capacity of soils, and turned it into a reservoir of toxic (forever) chemicals harmful to human health and environment. Agrochemicals have long persistence in the soil. As such, they affect the soil fauna and flora for years thereby disturbing soil biological activity and health. Herbicides strongly influence a range of soil functions and properties like rhizodeposition, nutrient content of bulk and rhizospheric soil, soil organic carbon, pH, moisture, activities of soil enzymes and many others. Herbicides ensure monocultures and thereby indirectly decrease plant population and diversity. Herbicides have direct effect upon decomposer microorganism, root pathogens and rhizosporic pathogens in soil biota. Persistence of toxic chemicals in soil turned it biologically inactive. Thus, chemicals have a role in soil degradation.

Specifically, Glyphosate has been named for its impact on soils. This particular chemical has transcended boundaries of pesticide usage and application, with Roundup ready seeds getting traded on agricultural inputs markets. Glyphosate has become a combination product with herbicide-tolerant seeds.

In India, herbicide usage increased manifold in the last few years in the country, due to increased cultivation of genetically modified crops. Use of herbicides causes undesirable outcomes on soil health, farm productivity, food safety, and the export of food and farm products, public health, as well as environmental wellbeing. Restoring soil health through non chemicals plant management methods is important to mitigate climate change induced stress.

Efforts to control soil degradation and enhance soil health must necessarily include stopping herbicides. PAN India urges Government of India and State Governments to come up with concerted efforts to stop usage of herbicides and popularize non-chemical plant management approaches, options and methods that best suits our agroclimatic and agro-ecological scenarios. Further, PAN India demands Ministry of Agriculture to undertake a comprehensive assessment of herbicide contamination of soils and resultant residues on food and environment to understand the level and extent of chemicalisation.


For Details Contact:

Dr. Narasimha Reddy Phone : +91 90102 05742

A. D. Dileep Kumar; Phone : +91 94473 40748

Post a comment