Push for neem-based fertilisers

Published: Thursday 15 November 2007

the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers is deliberating on a mechanism to promote neem-coated fertilizers. The move is an attempt to prevent soil fatigue caused by imbalanced and excessive use of urea, and increasing crop yields.

With the government set to promote neem-coated fertilizer, its manufacturers recently approached the government with a demand for subsidy or permission to increase the maximum retail price (mrp) of its product.

The neem-coated fertilizer is urea coated with neem oil emulsions.

At present, there are three leading companies--The National Fertiliser Limited (nfl), Noida, Indo Gulf Fertilizers Limited, Jagdishpur, and Shriram Fertilisers and Chemicals, Delhi--manufacturing the product in India. "The neem-coated fertilizer has gone down well with the farmers. But its production is restricted because the government does not pay subsidies for the extra costs incurred in the process of adding 'value' to it," says Sunil Bhatia, chief manager (finance), nfl. The mrp for the neem-coated fertilizer is fixed on a par with other fertilizers. Manufacturers say they incur an additional expense of Rs 100-150 per tonne for coating them with neem oil.

Though the exact mode of relief to manufacturers is yet to be decided, a senior official at the ministry, on condition of anonymity, said it was unlikely that neem-coated fertilizer would be included in the subsidy regime.
Indigenous cure Agricultural scientists have hailed the government's effort to promote neem-coated fertilizers. Studies done by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (icar), New Delhi, and Godrej Agrovet Limited, Mumbai, confirm that neem-coated fertilizers help increase yields by 5-10 per cent.

Neem cake coating boosts the yield of rice, wheat, potato, sugarcane, cotton and finger millet. Crops such as jute, Japanese mint, maize and tea have also shown an increase in yield when neem cake is used with urea. "The neem-coated fertilizer also acts as an insecticide. But most importantly, the neem-coated fertilizer acts as an inhibitor for nitrogen present in urea. It slows down the process of nitrate formation from urea and thus helps the crop absorb nitrogen leached into the soil properly," says Rajendra Prasad of the Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi. "It also takes care of groundwater pollution," says M S Sachdeva of icar.

While the ministry is charting out its course of action prudently, it is toying with the idea of floating fortified fertilizers like zincated urea, boronated urea and sulphur-coated urea in market.

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