Stop soil erosion before it is too late

By Dr. Brian Pinto-Jayawardena, Via e mail

The points made by Lincoln Wijeyesinghe in his letter titled ‘Burning issue: Wanton destruction of hill country natural cover’ (The Sunday Times, August 17) should be taken seriously.

While endorsing his stand, I would like to offer my thoughts on the subject. Working with the Veterinary Research Institute on soil-animal-plant relationships many years back, in the ’80s, I conducted an experiment at the department’s sheep farm at Boralanda, near Gurutalawa, which was located in a hilly patana grass area.

The normal method of growing pasture grass was through clean cultivation and the application of NPK fertiliser. However, this caused much soil erosion and resulted in a patchy growth of grass. To overcome this problem, I devised a pasture establishment technique using the strategy of shallow contour furrowing, application of dolomitic lime, superphosphate and minor elements and creeping pasture legume seeds suitably treated.

This method proved to be successful. The legumes spread over the patana grass, resulting in the patana grass being smothered slowly. Afterwards, improved grasses were planted. Soil analyses later showed a significant increase in soil organic matter. However, for immediate use, tall-growing fodder grasses for zero grazing will have to be planted and adequately manured. Cattle owners should be actively supported by field staff with a package of practices.

The Divisional Secretaries of the affected areas should work together with other government agencies in dealing with this disruptive practice. I am sure concerned organisations will come forward to fund a few pilot projects to help the poor farmers.

It is said that humans depend on the fruits of the earth for their existence. However, if the top soil is washed away and springs dry up, human existence itself will surely be jeopardised. It is time that this concern is addressed by our current policy makers and government officials.

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