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Soil Science to Combat Desertification

CAREER CORNER

Ranjan K Baruah

Many people are not aware of desertification and how it is affecting millions around the world. Well, desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs because dry land ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world’s land area, are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.
We should know that over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and about one billion people in over one hundred countries are at risk. These people include many of the world’s poorest, most marginalized and politically weak citizens.
Readers might be wondering why we are talking about desertification in our career page. It is a phenomenon that ranks among the greatest environmental challenges of our times. As it brings challenges for us, so, we have to also think of potential solutions and innovations. One of the fields of study or career choice related to this is Soil Science. In today’s edition we are publishing about soil science which is taught in different institutesand agricultural colleges.Soil science is the study of soil as a natural resource on the surface of the Earth, including soil formation, classification and mapping; physical, chemical, biological, and fertility properties of soils; and these properties in relation to the use and management of soils.
Sometimes terms which refer to branches of soil science, such as pedology (formation, chemistry, morphology, and classification of soil) and edaphology (how soil interacts with living things, especially plants), are used as if synonymous with soil science. The diversity of names associated with this discipline is related to the various associations concerned. Indeed, engineers, agronomists, chemists, geologists, physical geographers, ecologists, biologists, microbiologists, silviculturists, sanitarians, archaeologists, and specialists in regional planning, all contribute to further knowledge of soils and the advancement of the soil sciences.
Agricultural soil science is a branch of soil science that deals with the study of edaphic conditions as they relate to the production of food and fiber. In this context, it is also a constituent of the field of agronomy and is thus also described as soil agronomy.Soil Science plays an important role in the life of a human being. Students of soil science learn to identify, interpret, and manage soils for agriculture, forestry, rangeland, ecosystems, urban uses, and mining and reclamation in an environmentally responsible way.
There are different job roles for the aspirants. Some of the roles are as follows: Soil Scientist, Teachers in Colleges and Universities, Ecologist, Environmental Scientist, Scientific Laboratory Technician, Soil Conservation Technician, Natural Resource Managers, etc. They may get jobs in government departments, NGOs, research institutes, developmental organisations, etc. apart from being entrepreneurs. Scope may be in India and also abroad as we have already mentioned about desertification. To combat desertification, new innovative ideas and technologies are required and in this way people who have expertise in soil science may get opportunities.
Students passing senior secondary in science stream may take up admission in different agricultural colleges or universities and study soil science. Later they may also do specialisation on the same topic and become an expert in the field. Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat also offers courses related to Soil Science. The role of a soil scientist is highly desirable in agriculture and they are in great demand for managerial and executive positions in several environment and agro-consulting firms, both in India and abroad.
IISS: The Indian Institute of Soil Science (ICAR-IISS) was established on 16th April, 1988 at Bhopal with a mandate of “Enhancing Soil Productivity with Minimum Environmental Degradation”. IISS has emerged as a leader in basic and strategic research on soils in the country. It has achieved significant success in the areas of integrated nutrient management, impact on soil under long-term cropping, technology for preparation of enriched composts, soil test based nutrient prescriptions, generation of district-wise GIS based soil fertility maps, organic farming practices, carbon sequestration in soils, sink capacity of soils for heavy metal pollutants, recycling of wastes, soil microbial diversity and biofertilizers, quality standards for municipal solid waste composts, etc.

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Ranjan K Baruah is a social activist and career mentor who has conducted career awareness programme in different parts of Assam and Northeast India and can be reached at bkranjan@gmail.com or 98640 55558 for any career related queries

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Ankur Kalita