Good health begins in healthy soil. There is a lot of importance of soil health in our daily diet. To explain it further in detail, enriching zinc-deficient soil with a zinc-based fertilizer improves the crop’s nutrient quotient. This will help the common crops such as wheat and rice, staple food can become nutrient-rich, reaching every household in the country. Even for the farmer, the use of a zinc-based fertilizer significantly increases grain yield – from 6.4% to 50.1% in the case of a wheat crop.
But as of now, almost 30% of our land is degraded, Soil efficiency has reduced over the last decade, with the crop response ratio declining from 13.4 kg to 3.7 kg of grain from 1 kg of NPK-based fertilizers. The fertilizer consumption has grown significantly from the early years of the Green Revolution, but the amount of food grain produced per unit consumption of chemical fertilizers has reduced over the last 8-10 years. A contributing factor to this is that when it comes to fertilizer consumption, Indian farmers have strongly been influenced by fertilizer subsidies, overusing bulk fertilizers such as Urea and ignoring the importance of secondary fertilizers and micronutrients. This has led to unsustainable farming practices such as poor soil quality, inefficient water use, and glaring gaps in yield and quality of crops.
Right now, we need to improve access to innovative micronutrient fertilizers. When more than half of the food that we eat today is produced with the help of mineral fertilizers, it is essential to find nutrition solutions that are crop, natural and farmer centric. Ensuring balanced application of fertilizers and addressing the concern of fertilizer and crop response mismatch, efforts to move towards a Nutrient-based Subsidy Regime (NBS) instead of a long-prevailing product pricing regime. The policy will promote balanced fertilization through new fortified products that will lead to an increase in agricultural productivity and consequently lead to better returns for the farmer.
Farmers continue to remain unaware of the importance of secondary and micronutrient fertilizers for optimal soil health. Complicating the situation is their lack of access to such fertilizers because of the long processing time to register a new fertilizer. To launch a fertilizer in the Indian market, the product first needs to be field-tested for at least two crops over two seasons. Then, the trial data goes through a rigorous evaluation process. If all goes well, this process easily consumes a minimum of two-three years, making value-added fertilizers and specialty nutrients highly inaccessible to Indian farmlands.
The need of the hour is to improve access and favourability towards innovative crop nutrition solutions by allowing trusted companies in the industry to go-to-market basis truthful label claims. This would help our Indian farmers with the right arsenal for efficient, nutrition-rich, sustainable farming, create a level playing field with their global counterparts and promise them better returns.
A critical step to achieve the sustainability development goal of zero hunger, no poverty, good health, and well-being is to create a health-positive, nature-positive agricultural economy in the country.
With ease in government regulations, and new policies that support world-class crop nutrition, sustainable solutions to make our crops nutrient-dense will become accessible at the grassroots, making it a win-win for farmer-consumer alike.