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CROP & ENVIRONMENT 2012, 3(1-2): 67-70

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Please cite this article as: Hossain, M.A. 2012. Land resources appraisal and crop management in Bangladesh. Crop Environ., 3: 67-70
Review Article
Land Resources Appraisal and Crop
Management in Bangladesh

M.A. Hossain,
Principal Scientific Officer, Soil Resource Development Institute, Ministry of Agriculture, Mrittika
Bhaban, Krishi Khamar Sarak, Farmgate, Dhaka-1215, Bangladesh


Article history:
Received Jul., 2011
Accepted May., 2012

Bangladesh compared to many nations in the world has a smaller land holding per person.
So the land management is always a big dilemma in the countrys developmental
manifesto and provides continuous challenges to the economic emancipation of the
country. But the advancement of science and technology, changing socio-economic
dynamics and developmental techniques had shown the developmental horizon with newer
ideas and concepts. There are historical evidences that survival of a civilization depends on
soil productivity. Soil can be singled out as one of the most important environmental
factors affecting crop yields. An efficient crop production system requires proper planning
and timely management of available agricultural land areas under an appropriate land
budgeting scheme. Such a scheme includes an evaluation of land capability and
determination of suitability for each of these areas for cultivation of different agricultural
crops thereby maximum crop productivity can be ensured. A major challenge of
agricultural production is the deterioration of natural resources e.g. land & water due to
overexploitation of agricultural land and greater emphasis on mono-cropping (rice). This
would impact food security of increasing population. Basic task of wisely using our soil
resources require that we should have a periodic and regular inventory of soils: their
characteristics, fertility status, distribution and use potential. Such information needs to be
readily available through internets as texts, maps and databases so as to assist the
stakeholders in making use of this information judiciously for successful crop production
as well as sustainability of soil health.
2011 PSA. All rights reserved
Key words:
crop management
Soil health

* Corresponding author:


Land and Land Resources refer to a
delineable/declinable area of the earth's terrestrial
surface, encompassing all attributes of the biosphere
immediately above or below this surface, including
those of the near-surface climate, the soil and terrain
forms, the surface hydrology (including shallow lakes,
rivers, marshes and swamps), the near-surface
sedimentary layers, associated groundwater, geo-
hydrological reserve, the plant and animal populations,
the human settlement pattern and physical results of past
and present human activity such as terracing, water
storage or drainage structures, roads, buildings, etc.
(FAO/UNEP, 1997). Land is an essential natural
resource, both for the survival and prosperity of
humanity and for the maintenance of all terrestrial
ecosystems (FAO, 1999a).
In many developing countries, inefficient
exploitation of the land reduces the amount of resource
rent that can be collected, while lowering available
future resource rents as land resources degrade over
time in a suboptimal fashion (van Kooten and Bulte
2000). A cycle of land degradation occurs as forests are
mined, people turn to grasses, crop residues and
livestock dung for fuel, which deteriorates the land
further (Pearce and Warford, 1993)


The materials included consultation with key
officials, analysis of existing secondary data which is
collected from Soil Resource Development Institute
(SRDI), Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS),
Bangladesh Meteorological Department and Review of
Related Literature. Secondary information was collected
through review of available literature. The data were
collected, analyzed, assembled and presented in the
results and discussion.

Geographical location: Bangladesh is located in
Land resources appraisal and crop management in Bangladesh / Crop & Environment 2012, 3(1-2): 67-70

Southern Asia, in the Northeast of the Indian
subcontinent and covers area of 1, 47, 570 km
. It has
common border with India in the West, North and East,
a small border with Myanmar in the Southeast, and is
bordered by the Bay of Bengal in the South.
Administratively the country is divided into 6 divisions,
64 districts and 490 upazilas. There are 4 metropolitan
areas and the capital city is Dhaka (FAO Aquastat)
Agro-ecological zones in Bangladesh: An Agro-
ecological Zone is a land resource mapping unit,
defined in terms of climate, landform and soils, land
cover, and having a specific range of potentials and
constraints for land use (FAO Soils Bulletin 1996). In
Bangladesh, 30 agro-ecological zones have been
defined. These zones can however be grouped into 20
major physiographic units. Each zone has specific
characteristics which are related mainly to topography
and soil type.
Inundation Land Types and cropping patterns: On
most floodplain and valley land, cropping patterns are
primarily determined by the seasonal flooding regime
i.e. the dates when inundation begins and ends, the
depth of inundation at peak levels and the risk of
damage to crops by early, high or late floods. Farmers
traditional cropping patterns and practices are adapted
to flooding regimes on a microtopographical scale:
differences of only a few centimeters between
neighboring fields may influence choice of crop
varieties or management practices.
Seasonal flooding regimes have been characterized
by means of inundation land type and given in table 1:
Farm size: Farm holding or size is referred to all land
or livestock holdings, which are mainly used for both
crop and livestock production (CSA, 2001). Per capita
land availability in Bangladesh is about 0.6 hectare. The
average farm size is considered too small to allow
sustainable intensification of smallholder agriculture.
Therefore diminishing farm size has not only affected
the profitability and level of technology use, but also the
sustainability of rural livelihoods.
The effect of land tenure on the choice of crops:
Farms are turning smaller in Bangladesh and about 10%
of farm households own and operate 51% of agricultural
land, while the bottom 40% of farm households own
only 2%. The category of larger landowners has been
increasing in size and power. Majority of farmers in
Bangladesh are sharecroppers or work in the land as
laborers for landlords. There are various tenancy
arrangements, sharecropping being the most prevalent,
under which the tenant agrees to bear all costs and pay
50% (and in some cases two-thirds) of the gross
produce to the landowner. In some parts of the country,
landowners and tenants share the fertilizer and irrigation
costs for growing HYVs of rice; in some cases, the
tenancy arrangement is changing from shared cropping
to a fixed rent which is more conducive to the
introduction of HYVs. Owing to the insecurity of tenure
for most farmers, there is little incentive for farmers to
think in terms of long-term sustainability of the land. As
a result, investments in the long-term productivity of the
land are not made, and short-term inputs and practices
lacking environmental concern prevail.

Land and soils are the most valued natural resource
of Bangladesh. But they are either over exploited or
underutilized due to poor resource management. The
floodplain soils of Bangladesh occupying nearly 80%
area were formed dominantly by the sediments
deposited by the rivers- the Ganges and the
Brahmaputra. The rest of the country is occupied by the
older formation of Tertiary Hills (12%) and the
Pleistocene Terrace (8%). Bangladesh is divided into 20
physiographic units
Agricultural development activities have
emphasized the critical need for the characterization of
soils. For example the salinity and alkalinity status can
well determine the likely success of an irrigation
project. Nutrient deficiencies and the potential for
erosion and drainage problems are to be identified.
Beginning with Reconnaissance Soil Survey in the mid
sixties Bangladesh has appraised its land resources for
agricultural development. SRDI has innovated upazila
level Land and Soil Resource Utilization Guide
comprising of physical and chemical attributes of land
and crop suitability ratings to fulfill the needs of
location specific agricultural development planning. A
software named Soil and Land Resources Information
System (SOLARIS) has been developed to make soil
resources data available to end users through internet. A
web based Online Fertilizer Recommendation System
has also been developed to help the farmers with
balanced fertilizer dose available through cell phones.
Moreover soil test based fertilizer recommendation is
made for farmers at upazila level through Mobile Soil
Testing Laboratories. Farmers can also avail these
facilities through 16 static laboratories. It was observed
that farmers could get 15-25% higher crop yield by
using balanced dose of fertilizers.

Table 1: Characterization of seasonal flooding regimes

Highland (H) Land above normal inundation level
Medium Highland (MH) Land normally inundated up to about
90 cm deep
Medium Lowland (ML) Land normally inundated up to 90 -180
cm deep
Lowland (L) Land normally inundated up to 180-
300 cm deep
Very Lowland (VL) Land normally inundated deeper than
300 cm.
[Source: UNDP/FAO 1988]
Hossain / Crop & Environment 2012, 3(1-2): 67-70

Problem soils: Bangladesh's land resources were
showing signs of fatigue which was resulting in the
stagnation of yields of important crops. Although the
adoption of modern varieties had increased, their yields
have fallen in recent years. During the green revolution,
for example, 1 kg of added nitrogen fertilizer produced
20 Kg of grain, while now it only produces 8 to 10 Kg.
Declining productivity as a result of soil degradation is
now a key constraint. The organic matter of more than
half of cultivated soils in Bangladesh is said to be below
the critical level of 1.5% and still declining at an
alarming rate. A number of soil-related problems have
emerged, owing particularly to current agricultural
practices such as the insufficient and unbalanced
application of fertilizers and the mono-cultural cropping
practice used in rice production. Soil erosion,
micronutrient deficiency, waterlogging and salinity
(alkalinity) are just a few of the soil-related problems.
Unless the use of balanced fertilizers and organic matter
in soils are seriously considered, increased and
sustained productivity cannot be achieved. Source:
SOFA 1997.
Degradation of Physical and Chemical Properties of
Soils: With intensive cropping in the same land year
after year without proper soil management practices,
both physical and chemical properties of soils are liable
to degradation. Changes in particle size distribution in
the top 15 cm of most soils of different physiographic
units showed a wide variation over the last three
decades. Changes in clay content showed a decline in all
the physiographic units. The clay content declined in
favour of the sand content of surface soils. The highest
decrease in clay content was observed in the top 15 cm
of Old Himalayan Piedmont Plains (OHP), Brahmaputra
Floodplain (BF) and Meghna River Floodplain (MRF)
(about 50%) followed by Tista Floodplain (TF), Barind
Tract (BT), Madhupur Tract (MT) and Chittagong
Coastal Plain (CCP) (30-40% ). But in lowland
situation, decrease in clay content in Surma Kushiyara
Floodplain (SKF) is comparatively low (about 20%).
Changes in pH showed a decrease of 0.15, 0.37 and 0.48
units within the upper 100cm of Meghna River
Floodplain, North-East Piedmont Plain and Madhupur
and Barind Tracts respectively during the period 1967-
1997. Most soils showed a decline in the levels of
exchangeable K, Ca, Mg and effective cation exchange
capacity at the same time (BARC, 1999).
Reduction in the availability of Major and
Micronutrients: The areas of low fertility comprise
about 60% of the total cultivable land of the country.
Nutrient uptake by modern crop varieties is usually
greater than local varieties. Hence, in areas with
increased cropping intensity coupled with the use of
modern varieties, the net removal of major nutrients
(N,P,K,S) are high and ranges between 180 and 250 kg
(Karim et al. 1994). Most of the soils under high
land and medium high land situations were low in
fertility level where especially N, P K, and S were
deficient. Deficiencies of micro nutrients like Mg, Zn, B
and Mo have also been detected in some areas.
Imbalance in Fertilizer Application and Negative
Soil Nutrient Balance: Removal of nutrients from the
soil through crop harvest is substantially high exceeding
inputs as natural replacement and fertilizer use.
Negative soil nutrient balances have been found for all
three major nutrients in Bangladesh. Potassium
Table 2. Plant Nutrient Balance Sheet of Bangladesh
Nutrients Input Supply
(`000 tons)
(`000 tons)
(`000 tons)
1198 1322 (-) 124

339 362 (-) 23

481 1585 (-) 1104

Total: 2018 3269 (-) 1251
Source: Karim, et al. (1994).
Table 3. Summary of estimates of the cost of land degradation in Bangladesh

Nature of
Physical quantity of lost
Taka Equivalent/yr Cost million

Water erosion Cereal Prod. Loss = 1.06 mt/yr 6613.84 140.72 -
Nutrient Loss = 1.44 mt/yr. 25576.46 544.18 -
Fertility decline Cereal Prod. Loss= 4.27 mt/yr. 26641.48 566.84 -
Addl. inputs = 1.22 mt/yr. 21668.88 461.04 -
Salinization Total Prod. Loss= 4.42 mt/yr. 27577.25 586.75 -
Acidification Total Prod. Loss= 0.09 mt/yr. 561.51 11.95 -
Lowering of
water table
- - - Not assessed
Water logging - - - Not assessed
Note: mt = million tons Source: Land Degradation Situation in Bangladesh, Soils Division, BARC, 1999

Land resources appraisal and crop management in Bangladesh / Crop & Environment 2012, 3(1-2): 67-70

depletion trend in some soils where rice was cultivated
over a period of 12 years indicated that 90-95% more
potash was removed than applied.
Of the total nutrients used in Bangladesh
agriculture, nitrogen alone constitutes over 75% while
the use of P and K were limited to about 6.0 and 6.6%
only. The probable causes were high price and use of
substandard phosphatic fertilizers available in the
market. But the use of N-fertilizer has steadily increased
which shows inappropriate/imbalance ratio of N, P and
K (1: 0.12: 0.13). If this trend of fertilizer use continues
along with intensive cropping of high yielding varieties,
the productivity of our soils will be bound to be
seriously affected in future.
Loss of Agricultural land and soil resources: In
Bangladesh, land areas under active floodplains
(unstable char lands) and lands under sloppy situations
are subject to moderate - heavy erosion. Further, a
considerable area under peat, high hill and haors has
limited land use potential. Population expansion is also
engulfing much of the land resources in terms of
settlements and other related infrastructures. About 220
ha of land go out of cultivation per day which means,
nearly 1% of the cultivable land is being lost every year.
This has serious implication on the sustainability of
agricultural development potential, food supply and
security of the country.


The demise of earlier civilizations had often
resulted from the failure of their agriculture. Several
writers have attributed the end of the Mesopotamian
civilizations as failure to control salinization and of
Greeks, Mayas and other to control erosion.
Reliable soil survey information is must for
development planning in agriculture. Planners
sometimes look upon soils without regard to the vast
differences that exist among them to differences that
should affect markedly the plans. Soil surveys shall be
of special significance in two ways. First, they should
make possible the extrapolation of research results from
a given area to other area where the same kind of soils is
found. Second, they will provide basic information
needed for land use planning at local, regional and
national level which is of utmost importance for a small
A major challenge of agricultural production is the
deterioration of natural resources e.g. land & water due
to overexploitation of agricultural land and greatest
emphasis on mono-cropping (rice). This would impact
food and nutrition insecurity of increasing population.
Our basic task of wisely using our soil resources
requires that we should have a periodic and regular
inventory of our soils, their characteristics, fertility
status, distribution and use potential. Such information
needs to be readily available through internet as text,
map and other data bases so as to assist the stakeholders
in making use of this information judiciously for
successful crop production as well as sustenance of soil


BARC, 1999. Land Degradation Situation in Bangladesh,
Soils Division, BARC.
Central Statistical Authority (CSA), 2001. Agricultural
Sample Enumeration-2001/02 on Land use Report. CSA:
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
FAO, 1999. The future of our land Facing the challenge.
Guidelines for integrated planning for sustainable
management of land resources. FAO, Rome.
FAO/UNEP,1997. Negotiating a Sustainable Future for Land.
Structural and Institutional Guidelines for Land
Resources Management in the 21st Century.
Pearce, D.W. and J.J. Warford. 1993. World without End.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
van Kooten, G.C. and H.E. Bulte. 2000. The Economics of
Nature, Oxford, Blackwell, .