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First urea, now DAP: High use of subsidised fertilisers raises crop yield fears

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    16th Dec, 2022

Context

According to data from the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, the sale of urea and di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) increased by 3.7% and 16.9%, respectively, from April-October 2022 over the previous year.

Background:

  • Two ambitious schemes of the Government of India – Soil Health Card and mandatory neem-coating of urea, were supposed to promote the balanced use of fertilisers.
  • However, the annual consumption of urea (30 to 35 MT in the last 5 years) and DAP have grown over the years.
  • This means, instead of providing a balanced mixof plant nutrients based on soil testing and crop requirements, Indian farmers are applying only urea and DAP – both containing 46% N and P, respectively.

    About

    About Di-ammonium Phosphate (DAP):


    • It is a very popular fertilizerbecause of its excellent physical properties and nutrient content.
    • It is free flowing, dust-free and does not normally give any storage problem.
    • DAP is almost water-solubleand ultimately leaves acid effect on soils because of ammonia (NH4) it contains.
    • DAP on incorporation into soil, reacts with water and gets converted into HPO4 and NH4.
      • Ammonium (NH4) follows the same routes as in case of urea.
      • Phosphorus in DAP is present in best available from (HPO4).
    • Depending upon the soil reaction (pH), phosphorus exists in 3 forms which can be absorbed by plant roots.
    • These are HPO4, H2PO4 and PO4. Phosphorus, which is immobile in soil, is not subjected to leaching losses.

    Reasons behind increased consumption of urea and DAP:

    • High subsidy on urea:The government has fixed the maximum retail price (MRP) of urea at Rs.5,628 per tonne, while the MRPs of other fertilisers are technically decontrolled.
    • DAP – a cheaper substitute: Companies have been told not to charge more than Rs.27,000/tonne for DAP (Rs.29,000-31,000/ tonne for NPKS complexes), which has 46% P and 18% N.
    • Thus, the choice of fertilisers is primarily a function of pricesand not of NPKS complexes or other macro and micronutrients in the fertilisers.

    Issues:

    Over-use of fertilisers: India’s fertiliser sector has been riddled with distortions from excessive use of urea. The di-ammonium phosphate or DAP is seeing a similar phenomenon of over-application due to underpricing.

    The effects of overconsumption of urea and DAP:

    • The current NPK ratio of 13:5:1,as against the ideal 4:2:1, would adversely affect crop yields
    • It will adversely affect the health of plants and humans, due to the unavailability of a balanced nutrient mix.
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