Government Push For Balanced Fertilizers

Government Push For Balanced Fertilizers



Why in the News?


In the fiscal year concluding in March 2024, India saw a remarkable surge in urea consumption, reaching an unprecedented 35.8 million tonnes. This figure marks a substantial increase of 16.9% from the 30.6 million tonnes recorded in 2013-14. In response, the government is implementing measures aimed at encouraging balanced fertilization practices and diminishing the nation’s reliance on imported urea.


About Balanced Fertilization


  • Balanced fertilization refers to the practice of providing crops with the appropriate mix and amount of essential nutrients they need for optimal growth and productivity. 
  • Balanced fertilization entails the application of an appropriate combination, quantity, placement, and timing of different essential plant nutrients, such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulfur, and micronutrients.


Need for Balanced Fertilization in India


    • High urea consumption: Urea consumption in India reached a record high of 35.8 million tonnes in the fiscal year ended March 2024, which was 16.9% higher than the 30.6 million tonnes in 2013-14.
    • Soil Health Degradation: Overuse of fertilizers, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus-based ones, can lead to soil degradation. Excessive application alters the soil’s pH levels, reducing its fertility over time. This degradation diminishes the soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients, ultimately affecting crop yields and agricultural productivity.
    • Water Contamination: When fertilizers are applied excessively or incorrectly, they can leach into water bodies through runoff or percolation, causing water pollution. Nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from agricultural fields contribute to the eutrophication of water bodies, leading to algal blooms and oxygen depletion, which harm aquatic ecosystems and fisheries.
    • Atmospheric Pollution: Certain fertilizers release ammonia gas and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, especially when applied in excess or under inappropriate conditions. These gases contribute to air pollution and are potent greenhouse gases, exacerbating climate change and posing risks to human health.
    • Health Hazards: Exposure to high levels of nitrogen fertilizers and their derivatives, such as nitrates, in drinking water can pose serious health risks, including methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome) and certain types of cancer.
    • High import Dependency: India relies heavily on imported fertilizers, particularly urea, to meet its domestic demand. Excessive consumption exacerbates this dependency, exposing the agricultural sector to price fluctuations in the global market and vulnerabilities in the supply chain.
    • High Fertilizer subsidy: In the preceding fiscal year of 2023-24, the government’s overall subsidy expenditure on fertilizers surged notably, reaching Rs 2.25 lakh crore. This marked a substantial rise of 114% compared to the initial budget projections.


Difficulties in advocating for balanced fertilization


  • Adherence to Traditional Practices: Farmers often adhere to traditional farming methods passed down through generations. Convincing them to adopt new approaches, especially if they perceive them as unfamiliar or risky, can be met with resistance.
  • High Initial Cost: Implementing balanced fertilization practices may initially require additional investments in soil testing, nutrient analysis, and adopting precision agriculture techniques. Farmers, particularly those with limited financial resources, may be hesitant to incur these costs without a guarantee of immediate returns.
  • Lack of access to Inputs: In some regions, farmers may face challenges in accessing quality fertilizers and other inputs necessary for balanced fertilization. Limited availability or affordability of fertilizers, especially in remote or rural areas, can hinder adoption of these practices.
  • Market pricing: Market dynamics, including fluctuating fertilizer prices and availability, can influence farmers’ decisions regarding fertilizer usage. Subsidies or incentives that prioritize certain types of fertilizers over others may distort market signals and discourage adoption of balanced fertilization practices.
  • Policy and Regulatory Framework: Inconsistent or unclear policies related to fertilizer use, subsidies, and soil health management can hinder efforts to promote balanced fertilization. Lack of enforcement mechanisms or regulatory support may undermine initiatives aimed at encouraging sustainable agricultural practices.
  • Lack of awareness: Many farmers lack awareness or understanding of the concept of balanced fertilization and its benefits and the negative impacts of excessive fertilizer use. This lack of awareness can hinder the adoption of balanced fertilization practices



Government response to control excessive Fertilizer consumption


PM PRANAM Scheme (PM Programme for Restoration, Awareness, Nourishment, and Amelioration of Mother Earth): 

  • The scheme is designed to promote sustainable agricultural practices by reducing reliance on chemical fertilizers and encouraging the balanced utilization of alternative fertilizers.
  • This initiative aims to alleviate the projected subsidy burden on chemical fertilizers, which is anticipated to escalate to Rs 2.25 lakh crore by 2022-2023, while simultaneously enhancing the resilience of Indian agriculture in the face of climate change.
  • Under the scheme, states that exhibit below-average consumption of chemical fertilizers over the preceding three years will be incentivized. These states stand to receive 50% of the subsidy savings as grants, which can be allocated towards initiatives such as asset creation, technological adoption, and awareness campaigns pertaining to alternative fertilizers.

One Nation One Fertilizer (ONOF):

  • Introduced in 2022 by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, the initiative, alternatively termed as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Urvarak Pariyojana (PMBJP), mandates all fertilizer manufacturers participating in the fertilizer subsidy program to adopt a unified brand and logo for their products. Termed as “Bharat,” this single brand encompasses a comprehensive range of fertilizers, comprising urea, DAP, NPK, and MOP.

Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT):  

  • Implemented by the Department of Fertilizers in 2016, aims to streamline the subsidy disbursement process for farmers’ fertilizer purchases. With this system, subsidies are directly credited to fertilizer companies subsequent to sales transactions with farmers, facilitated by point-of-sale (PoS) devices installed at retail outlets.

Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) program:

  • Initiated in 2010 by the Department of Fertilizers, aims to offer subsidies based on nutrient content rather than specific fertilizer products. Within this framework, the government establishes predetermined subsidy rates for essential nutrients like nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and sulphur (S) on an annual basis. Manufacturers and importers retain flexibility in determining the retail prices of their products in response to prevailing market dynamics.

Neem Coated Urea (NCU) initiative:

  • Introduced by the government in 2015, aims to encourage the adoption of organic urea for enhancing soil health and improving crop yields. Within this program, farmers are encouraged to utilize solely neem-coated organic urea, resulting in approximately 10% savings. Neem-coated urea refers to urea treated with neem tree seed oil.
  • To ensure adherence to agricultural use, the government has mandated that all domestically produced and imported urea must undergo neem coating.


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Prelims based Question


Q1. Consider the following Statement About PM-PRANAM scheme:

  1. The scheme aims to reduce the dependence on Chemical Fertilizers.
  2. This is an incentive-based scheme, states that exhibit low consumption of chemical fertilizers over the preceding three years will be incentivized. 

Choose the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a).1 Only

(b).2 Only

(c).Both 1 and 2

(d). Neither 1 nor 2




Mains based Question


Q1.Discuss the significance of balanced fertilization in sustaining crop productivity and soil health, highlighting the key principles and benefits associated with this agricultural practice.


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