Opinion

Organic fertilisers to improve soil health


 
Published : 26 May 2022 08:29 PM | Updated : 26 May 2022 08:32 PM

Agriculture is the main driving force of developing Bangladesh. Living in 87,223 villages of agriculture-dominated Bangladesh, 70 per cent of the total population of the country i.e. 11 crore people are directly or indirectly involved in agriculture. Bangladesh ranks eighth in the world in terms of population and fifth among Asia. Therefore, the role of agriculture is very important in the development of the country. 

About 16 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and about 47 percent of the total labor force is dependent on agriculture. The agri-friendly government is increasing the allocation in the national budget every year to achieve self-sufficiency and sustainability in the production of all agricultural products through creative and innovative development activities.

The present agri-friendly government has been providing financial assistance for fertilizer, diesel, electricity and mechanization for the development of agriculture. As a result of the government's agri-friendly policy, the country today is not only self-sufficient but also surplus in the production of vegetables, 

fish, meat, eggs, milk and fruits, including rice. 

In the last Boro season, the country has produced a record amount of 2 crore7 lakh 84 thousand 506 tons of rice. While food production has been largely disrupted due to corona in the world, the total rice production in the country in the fiscal year 2020-2021 was 386.06 lakh tonnes. In this way, Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, her worthy successor in building the golden Bengal of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu's dream, has been adopting and implementing far-reaching plans to ensure nutritious and safe food for every people of the country by giving priority to agriculture. Due to her far-reaching leadership, the country's agriculture has continued to have unprecedented success over the past few years.

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are being widely used to increase the agricultural production of the country in the context of growing population and declining land area. 

The maximum share of the budget allocated to agriculture is spent on subsidies and more than 75% of the total subsidy is spent on chemical fertilizer management alone. As a result, farmers in the country are able to purchase chemical fertilizers at low cost and as a result, production of all types of crops in the country has increased by 80-200 percent in a few years. 

In order to maintain the normal life cycle of all types of crops, 16 nutrients are required. Demand of chemical fertilizer in the country is about 5 million tons. Of this, the quantity of urea fertilizer is 26 lakh tonnes and other fertilizers are 23 lakh tonnes. As a result of subsidy on chemical fertilizers, chemical fertilizers are currently used in 98 percent of the country's land.

Due to the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in crop production, on the one hand, the cost of production of farmers is increasing and on the other hand, the productivity of the land is declining, one of the main reasons being depletion of soil organic matter. In such a context, climate change, declining yields, increasing natural disasters, the future food security belt is facing a lot of challenges today.

There is no substitute for applying organic manure to our agricultural land to restore its lost health and to meet the food needs of the growing population in the future. The use of organic manure has become imperative to improve soil health by reducing soil fertility, reducing crop yields, increasing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and increasing the amount of organic matter in the current state of unbalanced use. The ideal fertile land needs to have 5% organic matter in the soil whereas the amount of organic matter in the soil of our country has come down to less than 2% or even somewhere below 1%. In order to increase the effectiveness of chemical fertilizers in the soil, the soil needs to have organic matter at the rate of at least 3%.

Sustainable agriculture requires not only the use of chemical fertilizers but also the use of organic fertilizers in a balanced way to maintain the balance between protection of environmental elements and increase in agricultural production. 

Prior to the 1960's, agriculture was a multi-faceted crop that naturally added organic matter to the land. At the same time, farmers were able to use large quantities of dung and other wastes in the cultivation of various crops and to maintain the balance of soil organic matter.

At present the cultivable land in the country is declining as well as increasing the density of land crops to ensure food for the growing population. In this situation urea, phosphate and potash have to be used in large quantities to cultivate every crop in the land. 60-70% of applied urea fertilizer is contaminating the environment. Reliance on phosphate and potash fertilizers is increasing to increase crop yields. Due to the exclusive use of chemical fertilizers, the beneficial microorganisms in the soil are rapidly declining. Due to this the plant is not able to receive the required nutrients from the soil and is not working even after using excessive amount of fertilizer.

When the soil contains sufficient amount of organic matter, the number of beneficial microorganisms in the soil increases rapidly and their activity increases the availability of 16 essential and secondary nutrients required by the plant. Considering this, composting is very necessary to increase the crop production of the country as well as to keep the soil fertile and productive.

Soil health is endangered today due to depletion of soil organic matter. Over the past three decades, scientists have been able to pinpoint a direct link between soil health and human health. More than a hundred elements have so far been found in crop plants that are collected from the soil. Through the plant, man receives 48 nutrients from his diet. There are different types of microorganisms in the human gut and these microorganisms are dependent on certain types of nutrients. If these microorganisms do not get proper nutrition then they affect human physiological activity and cause certain diseases. For this reason, applying organic manure on the land is an effective step

One kg of urea fertilizer is supposed to produce 20 kg of grain whereas in our land it can produce only 8-10 kg of grain. One of the reasons for this is the lack of organic matter in the soil. Organic matter in the soil is one of the important functions:

 1) Organic matter improves soil structure which in turn increases soil water and nutrient holding capacity. 

2) Organic matter contains carbon which combines carbon with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to reproduce microorganisms and naturally increase the supply of nutrients to plants through biological processes.

 3) Organic manure does not end up as easily as chemical manure because it is attached to the soil structure. As a result, organic manure increases soil biodiversity by 30 percent as compared to chemical fertilizer. 

4) Organic fertilizers provide extensive nutrition for crops which improves the quality of agricultural products and enhances soil buffering capacity. 

5) Organic manure improves soil structure, increases moisture hol

ding capacity and requires less irrigation in crops.

The country has sufficient raw material for production of organic manure but due to lack of proper utilization, all these raw materials are being dumped in the ground in most cases. Waste is being dumped in urban areas of the country due to non-utilization of huge amount ofwaste produced in cattle and poultry farms. However, if there is an opportunity to manage all these wastes, it is possible to produce several lakh tons of organic manure every year in the country. Besides meeting the needs of the country, there is also an opportunity to export organic fertilizers outside the country.

As a result of the program taken by the Department of Agricultural Extension, many small entrepreneurs in the country are producing vermicompost and marketing it on a limited scale. In the meantime, several large companies of the country have started production and marketing of organic fertilizers and several companies have applied to the appropriate authorities with interest in the production of organic fertilizers. What is needed now is the patronage and cooperation of the agri-friendly government and the Ministry of Agriculture.

In the last few years, due to the adoption of agri-friendly policies of the government, especially due to subsidies and incentives for chemical fertilizers, the production of various crops has increased by 80-200 percent. In order to continue this advancement of agriculture in the future, it is necessary to provide subsidy for chemical fertilizers as well as organic fertilizers.

Recently, the Hon'ble Minister of Agriculture has said that Tk 28,000 crore is required for the admission of fertilizers this year. There is no doubt that one of the reasons for the unimaginable success in agriculture during the three years tenure of the present government under the leadership of Hon'ble Minister of Agriculture is the subsidy and incentives for chemical fertilizers. 

The huge success of agriculture is working at the root of the overall economic progress of the country and to sustain this success it is necessary to provide the necessary funds to the Ministry of Finance. There is no denying that in order to take the country further, the progress of agriculture must be sustained. Agriculture is making arrangements to feed 170 million people of the country. 

Therefore, if the development of agriculture is hampered, it will affect the overall economy of the country. Therefore, the competent Minister of Agriculture will take the agriculture of the country further in the future by arranging necessary subsidy not only for chemical fertilizer but also for organic fertilizer for the overall welfare of agriculture and farmers.


Dr. M. A. Awal is Member Director, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, Farmgate, Dhaka

Dr. M.Monir Uddin is Agronomist, Columnist and development worker