How to replace chemical fertilisers with organic & bio-fertilisers 

Organic and bio-fertilisers should also be made suitable for application through micro-irrigation methods

By Ridham Kakar
Published: Tuesday 12 July 2022
How to replace chemical fertilisers with organic & biofertilisers Photo: iStock

Recently, India emerged as a torch bearer at the 26th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as it presented very ambitious yet promising goals for the coming decade. 

But is it possible to achieve these goals without considering the climate adaptability and sustainability of agriculture? 

Sustainability and climate adaptability of our agriculture (our crops and soil) depend on what we put into our fields, what leaches from our fields and gets added to our water / air. Clearly, the needle is pointing at our nutrient management practices.

Since the Green Revolution, our dependence on chemical fertilisers as a source of plant nutrients has increased manifold and this made India a self-sufficient nation. Why still did we rank 101 out of 116 countries in the Global Hunger Index? 

One of the major reasons is that somewhere, we lost sight of our traditional agricultural practices and use of chemical fertilisers became imbalanced or skewed. 

Read more: CSE report flags poor state of organic fertilisers, biofertilisers sector in India

Imbalanced chemical fertilisation then started showing its ill effects in terms of soil health deterioration, vis-a-vis organic matter depletion, soil structure degradation, disturbance in soil hydro-thermal balance, heavy metal contamination and above all, an imbalanced human diet, to name a few. 

Yes, we need to feed our ever-increasing mouths, but this must be done without further deteriorating our soils, climate or for that matter, human health. The path forward can start with balanced Integrated Nutrient Management and slowly pave a way towards adapting organic or biofertilisers as an alternative to chemical fertilisers. 

One must note that this year, farmers are hassled because there is no urea or diammonium phosphate in the market. But the Green Revolution started with guano (seabird and bat droppings). Then why can’t it be done today, even if at small scale or in an integrated manner?

Moreover, looking at the changing perspectives of consumers and improving health consciousness among masses, farmers cannot avoid this adaptation for long. 

Read more: High fertiliser prices shock farmers even as ministry denies shortage reports

Adaptation of organic or biofertilisers by our nearly 43 per cent of workforce has its own share of challenges and without doubt, it would be a slow process. This would require an extremely strong approach and, by extension, workforce. 

Lab-to-land programmes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and state agriculture universities must come out of the shackles of multi-coloured files and be implemented on the field, to convince farmers of the results. 

A farmer will not and should not accept anything that does not give them fruitful results. Using practical demonstrations and statistical analysis, it must be demonstrated to the farmers that yield will not reduce, their benefit-cost ratio will improve and quality parameters of the market for the produce will be met. 

It must be displayed how, through this adaptation, their future generations will thank them for the soil, water and air they will inherit. Now, if we succeed at convincing the farmers, we need to meet their demands of certified quality, assured nutrient content, organic and bio fertilizers which are competitive enough with chemical fertilizers in terms of nutrient content, solubility, plant availability and prices. 

Organic and bio-fertilisers must penetrate the fertiliser market the way urea or single super phosphate did in the 60s. A proper retail, marketing and distribution network needs to be penned out. 

Read more: CSE report flags poor state of organic fertilisers, biofertilisers sector in India

Organic and bio-fertilisers should also be made suitable for application through micro-irrigation methods. Also, once farmers use these adaptations, they must be ensured that their produce — perishable or non-perishable — will have storage, transportation and market facilities available, along with accurate certification services. 

In the end, for their organic produce, farmers should get a price which is at least at par or more than the prices gained by the counterpart.

As and when we start overcoming these challenges, we might see adaptation of organics and biofertilisers at a large scale. Till then, farmers should get the best of both worlds. 

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

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