Seven decade-old Agriculture Ministry will be renamed as ‘Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Ministry’ with a view to take care of the farming community’s needs as well as the personal problems faced by them, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced.
Addressing the nation on the 69th Independence Day, Modi stressed on the need to increase agricultural productivity and said the government is making efforts to boost crop yields.
Mr. Modi emphasized that rural and agricultural development can only be complete when the welfare of the farmer is also ensured. He said the government will formulate schemes keeping in view some of the personal problems that are faced by the farmers. The Prime Minister said besides schemes for development of agriculture in the coming days, there will also be schemes for development of farmers and the government will work in the direction of addressing problems faced by the farmers in their personal lives.
“We need to increase agricultural productivity and we are working in that direction,” he said, adding that focus should be on achieving “per drop, more crops”. He assured farmers that the government would make sufficient availability of fertilizers.
Modi highlighted that the government has allowed 100 per cent production of neem-coated urea to check diversion of this key nutrients to chemical industry and asked farmers to use only neem-coated urea.
The introduction of “neem-coated urea” has helped to end diversion of subsidized urea for non-agricultural purposes.
Modi said the government is reviving closed urea plants, including those in eastern parts of the country.
Happy news to farmers:
Delhi-based National Fertilizers Limited (NFL) has started manufacturing urea coated with neem oil. Fifty field trials conducted in three states show positive results, with an average increase of 16 per cent in crop production. “On an average, 20 per cent less neem-coated urea is required as compared to ordinary urea. It is also helpful in preventing insect attacks,” claims I K Suri, ex-general manager (technical) of NFL.
Urea is an important supplier of nitrogen, which is necessary for the development of plants. “But only 30-40 per cent of nitrogen present in the urea is utilised by crops. The rest gets degraded,” explains Rajendra Prasad, a scientist at the Delhi-based Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), who developed the urea.
When ordinary urea is applied, it gets converted to ammonium carbamate. Some of this gets converted to ammonia gas in what is called ammonia volatilization. “About 8-10 per cent nitrogen is lost during volatilization,” explains C Devakumar, principal scientist, division of agrochemicals, IARI. “Volatilization is more pronounced in alkaline soils like that of India.”
The rest of the ammonium carbamate undergoes chemical transformation and nitrates are formed. Some of these are absorbed by the plants. The rest are either leached into the underground water or are denitrified to gaseous nitrogen and nitrous oxide under anaerobic conditions (absence of oxygen). Neem has properties that check nitrogen loss at each stage. It slows down the process of nitrate formation and hence excess nitrate is not available for denitrification.
At present neem-coated urea is available in Panipat. Its proponents are disappointed, as the product does not have an edge over ordinary urea in terms of cost. Both of them cost Rs 40-50 per tonne, which is just 40 paise per kilogramme. Since urea is a subsidized product, industry cannot fix its price. “This is an indigenous technology which should be promoted through financial incentives,” Prasad says.
What is Neem coated Urea?
“Urea coated with neem oil” is neem coated urea. Only about 30 to 40% of N2 in the urea is utilized by the plants. Coating of neem oil helps in gradual release of nitrates into soil. This may work as a biopesticide.
Primary motive of the Indian government is to stop the illegal diverting of highly subsidized urea for the industrial purpose. Neem coated urea is unfit for the industrial purpose.
Neem coated Urea use made Mandatory:
Government has made it mandatory for domestic fertilizer firms to “neem coat” at least 75 per cent of their urea production, a move that is likely to save Rs. 6,500 crore subsidy outgo.
The move is aimed at checking the excessive use of urea which is deteriorating the soil health and adversely impacting overall crop yield.
”…it has now been decided to make it mandatory for all the indigenous producers of urea to produce 75 per cent of their total production of subsidized urea as Neem Coated urea,” Fertilizer Ministry said in a notice to the domestic urea manufacturers.
Removing the cap on neem coating of urea in January this year, and allowing fertilizer firms to coat the 100 per cent of urea produced by them with neem, Fertilizer Minister Ananth Kumar had said that with the use of neem coated urea, there will be more yield to the extent of 15-20 per cent and with less use of urea to the extent of 15-20 per cent.
Kumar had also said that government’s subsidy bill could reduce up to Rs. 6,500 crore annually.
According to sources, the higher usage of neem-coated urea would check diversion of urea for industrial use.
Urea is excessive used as it is highly subsidized and its retail price of urea is fixed at Rs. 5,360 per tonne. Therefore farmers use it even in place of other partially decontrolled NPK fertilizers.
According to officials in both Agriculture and Fertilizer Ministries, the soil health is deteriorating because of excessive use of urea and it has disturbed the ideal N (nitrogen) P (phosphorus) and K (potash) ratio of 4:2:1.
Fertilizer Secretary J K Mohapatra has said that neem coated urea also works as insecticide and it will cost just 5 per cent more than the cost of normal urea which is about Rs. 260 per tonne and about Rs. 10 per bag.
Industry body Fertilizer Association of India has welcomed the move and said that the industry has been demanding for removing the cap on production of neem coated urea for last many years and added it will help maintaining the ideal nutrient ration in soil.
To boost the farm sector, the government has already announced plans to spend Rs 50,000 crore over the next five years under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) to improve farm productivity. Currently, 142 million hectares are used for cultivation, of which only 45 per cent farm land is under irrigation. Apart from that, a Soil Health Card scheme has been launched under which the Centre plans to target over 14 crore farmers in next three years to check excess use of fertilizers.
India’s food grain production is estimated to have declined by 5.25 per cent to 251.12 million tonnes in 2014-15 crop year against a record 265.04 million tonnes in the previous year.