State of Biofertilizers and Organic Fertilizers in India
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi, published this report titled State of Biofertilizers and Organic Fertilizers in India on April 20, 2022. CSE is a research organisation working towards sustainable and equitable development across India. Written by Amit Khurana and Vineet Kumar from CSE, this report studies the quality of soil across India through samples tested between 2015-2016 and 2018-2019.
The report states that the soil in India lacks micronutrients (such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus) and organic carbon. The widespread use of chemical fertilizers across India is the primary reason for this depletion in the soil’s natural nutrients. India was the second largest producer and consumer of chemical fertilizers in the world in 2019 with urea accounting for about 50 per cent of the total chemical fertilizers used. In this context, the report reviews the benefits of using organic fertilizers and biofertilizers.
The 88-page publication is divided into seven chapters: State of Indian soil (Chapter 1); Chemical fertilizers–consumption and subsidy (Chapter 2); Biofertilizers and organic fertilizers–policy and programmes (Chapter 3); Biofertilizers–production and quality (Chapter 4); Organic fertilizers–production and quality (Chapter 5); Barriers in the promotion of biofertilizers and organic fertilizers (Chapter 6); Recommendations and the way ahead (Chapter 7).
The report defines biofertilizers as “ready to use live formulates of beneficial microorganisms” which, when added to seeds, roots or soil, generate nutrients and help restore soil health.
Organic fertilizers are substances made up of decomposed organic material obtained out of residues from plants, animals and humans. Examples of organic fertilizers include manure, vermicompost and city compost.
Tests performed on over five crore soil samples from across the country revealed that soil in India heavily lacks organic carbon and macronutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Of all the soil samples tested, 97 per cent were deficient in nitrogen, 85 per cent were deficient in organic carbon, 83 per cent in phosphorus and 71 per cent in potassium.
India’s total chemical fertilizer consumption (excluding single super phosphate) in 2020-21 was noted to be 62.98 million tonnes while the per hectare fertilizer consumption was as high as 161 kilograms. This shows an increase of 82.5 per cent in total consumption and 75 per cent increase in per hectare consumption since 2000-01.
As per the report, the states with the highest rates of per hectare fertilizer consumption (in decreasing order) are Bihar, Puducherry, Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi and Uttarakhand.
The report notes the growing subsidies on chemical fertilizers. The annual subsidy bill for such fertilizers in 2020-21 (Rs. 1,31,230 crores) was 10 times higher than the bill in 2001-02 (Rs. 12,908 crores). The 2020-21 bill marks a very steep rise since the previous year’s (2019-20) bill of Rs. 83,468 crores.
Studies reveal that chemical fertilizers have grown to be less effective on crops over time. For instance, a study by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi, showed that the ratio of fertilizer application to fertilizer response (kg grain per kg fertilizer applied) decreased from 13.4 in 1970 to 2.7 by 2015.
The production of carrier-based solid biofertilizers in India amounted to roughly 134,323 tonnes in 2020-21. This was an 83 per cent growth over figures from 2018-19. On the other hand, Indian production of liquid biofertilizers in 2020-21 was at 26,442 kilolitres.
The central government runs two kinds of programmes to promote the use of biofertilizers and organic fertilizers in the country, the report notes. The first kind is aimed at farmers as part of larger agricultural schemes such as Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Bharatiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati and National Food Security Mission. The second kind of programmes are aimed at manufacturers and marketers. Examples of these are Capital Investment Subsidy Scheme, and New National Biogas and Organic Manure Programme. Both kinds of programmes are poorly funded, have limited scale and have not been especially successful, the report adds.
Some of the major barriers in the use of biofertilizers and organic fertilizers in the country are the lack of government funding and subsidies. In addition to these, inadequate quality control and insufficient research in this field inhibits the use of biofertilizers and organic fertilizers.
In order to increase the production and consumption of organic and biofertilizers, the report recommends a well-funded national programme that promotes their use. It also advocates for a thorough quality checking mechanism, and explicit commitments from state and central governments to make biofertilizers and organic fertilizers readily available.
Focus and Factoids by Sowmya Vaidyanathan.
Amit Khurana and Vineet Kumar
Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi
20 Apr, 2022