Import of urea may ease by 2025
According to Mansukh Mandaviya, the Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, the country’s fertiliser use has fallen out of balance, necessitating the introduction of a special package worth an estimated 3.7 lakh crore for farmers. He claimed in an interview with The Hindu that the country’s current nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium ratio should have been 4:2:1. Instead, it is 8:3:1.
What is the reason behind reducing the imports of fertilizers?
- Green Revolution: By introducing high-yielding crop types, the Green Revolution in India sought to improve agricultural production and reduce food scarcity.
- Nutrient Deficiencies: Numerous Indian soils are deficient in nutrients, such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), which are crucial for plant growth.
- NPK Fertilisers: The Green Revolution encouraged the use of chemical fertilisers containing NPK, which gave crops an instantaneous and concentrated delivery of nutrients, to address nutrient deficits.
- Increase in Crop Yields: The use of NPK fertilisers increased crop yields significantly, especially for staples like wheat and rice.
- Continued Use: NPK fertilisers have remained common in Indian agriculture due to the success of the Green Revolution.
- Soil Nutrient Replenishment: NPK fertilisers are used by farmers to restore the soil’s nutrients and guarantee the best possible crop growth and production.
- Increased Agricultural Productivity: A significant rise in agricultural productivity was caused by the widespread use of NPK fertilisers as well as other elements like enhanced irrigation and contemporary agricultural methods.
- Soil degradation Concerns: Concerns about soil degradation include nitrogen imbalances, decreased soil fertility, and elevated soil salinity as a result of the overuse of chemical fertilisers over time.
- Water Pollution: Runoff from fields where NPK fertilisers are used can contaminate water sources, causing water pollution and ecological harm.
- Environmental Sustainability: As people become more conscious of the damaging effects that excessive fertiliser use has on the environment, initiatives are being made to encourage sustainable agriculture methods that lessen dependency on NPK fertilisers.
What are the adverse effects of overusing fertilizers?
- Soil Degradation: Degradation of the soil can result from the overuse of NPK fertilisers and poor management techniques. Continuous use of these fertilisers over time has the potential to degrade soil fertility, reduce organic matter content, and alter the physical structure of the soil. As a result of this degradation, the soil may erode, beneficial soil organisms may disappear, and its ability to retain water may be reduced.
- Nutrient Imbalance: Unbalanced nutrient levels can be caused by an overreliance on NPK fertilisers. Nitrogen (N) discharge and leaching from excessive nitrogen application can contaminate rivers and lakes. High soil phosphorus (P) concentrations can cause eutrophication, which damages aquatic habitats by causing oxygen deprivation and destructive algal blooms.
- Contamination of groundwater: Excessive use of nitrogen-based fertilisers can cause leaching, which can contaminate groundwater. A concern about the quality of drinking water is posed by nitrate, a result of nitrogen fertilisers, which can travel through the soil profile and infiltrate groundwater sources. Nitrate contamination in drinking water can be harmful to people’s health, especially for young children and expectant mothers.
- Reduced biodiversity: The use of NPK fertilisers without consideration can have a detrimental effect on biodiversity in agricultural environments. A reduction in plant diversity results from excessive fertilisation, which favours the growth of some plant species at the expense of others. Beneficial insects, pollinators, and other species that depend on a variety of environments for food and shelter may be impacted as a result.
- Implications for climate change: Nitrous oxide (N2O), a powerful greenhouse gas, is released during the production, shipping, and use of NPK fertilisers. The ozone layer’s thinning and climate change can both be caused by N2O emissions from fertilisers.
- Economic hardship: Because NPK fertilisers can be expensive, relying too heavily on them can place a financial burden on farmers, particularly small-scale farmers. Furthermore, continued fertiliser application without good soil management techniques might eventually reduce crop output, necessitating even higher fertiliser inputs to sustain yields.
What are the measures taken by the government to overcome this situation?
- Soil Health Card Scheme: Farmer-specific soil health cards are made available to farmers through the Soil Health Card Scheme, which was established. These cards include advice on the right amount and kind of fertilisers to apply, as well as details on the nutritional content of their soil. This programme aims to encourage sensible and balanced fertiliser use by offering scientific recommendations.
- Rationalisation of Subsidies: To deter excessive use of fertiliser, the government has been striving to rationalise the subsidies. While lowering or removing subsidies for urea, which is frequently overused because of its cost, efforts are being made to tailor subsidies to small and marginal farmers.
- Neem Coating of Urea: To control the use of urea, the government made neem coating of urea mandatory in 2015. Nitrogen is slowly released from urea coated with neem, which lowers the amount needed and prevents its diversion for non-agricultural uses. This action aids in cutting back on unnecessary urea use.
- Integrated Nutrient Management: The use of organic manures, biofertilizers, and other nutrient sources with chemical fertilisers is emphasised in Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) practises, which are promoted by the government. INM seeks to strengthen soil health, increase nutrient use effectiveness, and lessen reliance on artificial fertilisers.
- Promotion of Organic agriculture: Through several initiatives and programmes, the government supports organic agricultural methods. Compost, vermicompost, and biofertilizers are a few examples of the natural inputs used in organic farming that lessen the need for synthetic fertilisers. Organic farming is encouraged nationwide through programmes like the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and the National Programme on Organic Production (NPOP).
- Special agricultural package: Due to the uneven use of fertilisers around the nation, a package worth 3.7 lakh crore is being recommended to aid farmers in India. There are connections between the health of the soil, people, animals, and the environment. Different facets of health and the environment may suffer as a result of the decline of soil health.
- The government is taking its time transitioning to 100% natural farming. As was the case in Sri Lanka, a sudden switch to organic farming can have unforeseen repercussions. The objective is to gradually promote organic and natural farming methods.
- By 2025, the government wants to replace its reliance on imported urea with nano urea and other substitutes. Nano urea will still be used in conjunction with regular urea.
Overall, the government is aware of the need for a well-balanced approach to fertiliser use, with a focus on encouraging sustainable farming methods like natural farming and the use of substitute fertilisers such as nano urea. The objective is to guarantee soil health, boost productivity, and improve farmers’ well-being while preserving national food security.