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Balanced Fertilisation

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BALANCED FERTILISATION

Balanced fertilisation — discouraging farmers from applying too much urea, di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) or muriate of potash (MOP), which only have primary nutrients in high concentrations — is likely to be a key policy goal for the government taking over after the Lok Sabha elections.

The fiscal ended March 2024 saw urea consumption hit a record 35.8 million tonnes (mt), 16.9% higher than the 30.6 mt in 2013-14.

NEEM COATED UREA

The consumption of urea, containing 46% nitrogen (N), actually fell during 2016-17 and 2017-18, which was attributed to the mandatory coating of all urea with neem oil from May 2015.

WHY WAS NEEM COATING DONE?

Neem coating was intended to check illegal diversion of the highly-subsidised urea for non-agricultural uses, including by plywood, dye, cattle feed and synthetic milk makers.

BENEFIT OF NEEM COATING:

Neem oil supposedly also acted as a mild nitrification inhibitor, allowing more gradual release of nitrogen. Improved nitrogen use efficiency, in turn, brought down the number of urea bags required per acre.

NUTRIENT BASED SUBSIDY

Fertilisers are basically food for crops, containing nutrients necessary for plant growth and grain yields.

Balanced fertilisation means supplying these primary (N, phosphorus-P and potassium-K), secondary (sulphur-S, calcium, magnesium) and micro (iron, zinc, copper, manganese, boron, molybdenum) nutrients in the right proportion, based on soil type and the crop’s own requirement at different growth stages.

WHEN WAS IT INTRODUCED?

The nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) system, instituted in April 2010 by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, was expected to promote balanced fertilisation.

Under it, the government fixed a per-kg subsidy for N, P, K and S. The subsidy on any

fertiliser was, thereby, linked to its nutrient content. The underlying idea was to induce product innovation and wean away farmers from urea, DAP (18% N and 46% P content) and MOP (60% K), in favour of complex fertilisers containing N, P, K, S and other nutrients in balanced proportions with lower concentrations.

WAS IT SUCCESSFUL?

NBS achieved its objective initially. Between 2009-10 and 2011-12, DAP and MOP consumption declined, while that of NPKS complexes and single super phosphate (SSP: 16% P and 11% S) rose.

But NBS failed simply because it excluded urea.

 

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