The government has said that it will tread cautiously in accepting the industry’s demand to allow nano-zinc and nano-copper in the absence of long-term data amid global fear of allowing these as crop nutrients may lead to toxicity in the crops.
The commercial use of nano-urea was allowed in November last year that may help improve crops yield by 18-35%.
“Since these are metals, the commercial release of nano-zinc and nano-copper was not possible while we allowed only nano-urea,” said agriculture commissioner SK Malhotra.
Speaking at an event on crop nutrients, organised by industry chamber CII, Malhotra said “site specific nutrient management is the solution to address issue of micro nutrient deficiency.” Nanotechnology is used to produce nano-urea to improve its nutrient efficiency.
The Central Fertiliser Committee, the regulatory body of fertiliser products, had approved commercial production of nano-nitrogen for an initial three years which will be extended or may be made permanent after evaluating its performance. The approval came after more than a year of field trial by fertiliser major Iffco.
Apart from raising crop yield, it may also help the country cut import of urea, estimated to be about 9 million tonnes in 2019-20. Farmers use 30-32 million tonne of urea per year to grow their crops.
According to fertiliser minister DV Sadananda Gowda, the government has been encouraging production of nano fertilizers as they are 25-30% cheaper and keep the soil in good health. As part of field trial, Iffco had distributed nano-urea to 12,000 farmers and agriculture universities free of cost which have given positive feedback.
Commercial production of nano-urea will start in Iffco’s Kalol plant this month. The company plans to produce 25 millon bottles of 500 ml each (one bottle will be equivalent of 45 kg urea bag currently available in the market).
Experts said that this nano-urea has the potential to cut overall urea consumption by half. For instance, if farmers are using two bags of urea in one acre, they may try one bag and one bottle of nano-urea.
The agriculture commissioner also said that micro nutrients like zinc play a major role in improving the quality of grains, fruits and vegetables as plants absorb them easily. Highlighting the need for a robust infrastructure in soil testing along with the need to address the micronutrient deficiency, Rainfed Area Authority CEO Ashok Dalwai said: “absence of micronutrient like zinc and boron has been shown to have a direct impact on the crop output. The way forward is to strengthen the backward linkages such as the infrastructure upgradation of soil testing, creation of awareness amongst relevant stakeholders, policy redesign and most importantly the research & development that gets deployed into creation of micronutrient fertilizers. We are committed to achieving these targets in the years to come.”