Fertilizer is one of the key inputs in augmenting food grain production. Considering the fact that about 40-50% of the applied fertilizer nitrogen is lost by ammonia volatilization, leaching, run-off and de-nitrification, development of more efficient nitrogen fertilizers such as neem-coated urea needs to be encouraged by providing price incentive to the fertilizer manufacturers.
Most of the present suite of fertilizer products were developed more than 40 years ago. Over the past 25 years, no “new” efficient fertilizer product has been developed particularly no product affordable for use on food crops by farmers in less developed countries.
New and improved fertilizers are critical to help feed the world’s growing population, provide sustainable global food security and protect the environment.
Major recommendations emanating from the above discussion is that there is a dearth need of developing new and improved fertilizers i.e., customized fertilizers based on soil-test-crop response for major cropping and farming systems in different agro climatic regions of the country.
According to FCO, Customized fertilizers is the use of the Fertilizers Best Management Practices and are generally assumed to maximize crop yields while minimizing unwanted impacts on the environment & human health.
Fertilizer Best Management Practices will make it easier for farmers, extension agents, crop advisers & researchers, to exchange their experiences and also to restrict the unwanted nutrient impact on the ecosystem.
Application of customized fertilizer is compatible with existing farmers system & hence it will be comfortably accepted by the farmers.
Production of customized fertilizers will ensure improved ‘Fertilizer Use Efficiency’ and will create a new “Virtual” source of nutrients, implying from the existing quantity of DAP, MOP, Urea, SSP & A.S available & consumed in India, the agricultural produce output will increase.
simultaneously the distribution & availability of fertilizer will be better. Customized fertilizer satisfies crop’s nutritional demand, specific to area, soil, and growth stage of plant.
As the micronutrients are also added with the granulated NPK fertilizer the plants can absorb the micronutrient along with macronutrient which prevents nutrient deficiency in plant.
Mixed fertilizers with micronutrients provide recommended micronutrient rates for the agricultural field at the usual fertilizer application.The farmer need not buy micronutrient separately at extra cost, thus reducing the total cost. It is found that incorporation of micronutrient with granular fertilizer at the time of manufacturing results in uniform distribution of micronutrient throughout granular NPK fertilizer.
This is because micronutrient source is in contact with the mixed fertilizer under the condition of high moisture and temperature.
Micronutrient with the mixed fertilizer is one of the most convenient methods of fertilizer application and helps in more uniform distribution of nutrient with conventional application equipment. It is a very unique method developed in agriculture industry and has tremendous scope for future.
How to arrive at customized fertilizers?
Scientific principles were used as an ultimate guiding factor in deciding the grades of customized fertilizers. Following procedures were used to arrive at crop-soil specific customized fertilizer grades (CFG).
- Geo-referencing of chosen area
- Selecting sampling points on appropriate statistical procedure
- Actual sampling of the sites
- Analyzing sampling of the sites
- Analyzing soil, plant and water samples for nutrients and some soil characteristics
- Defining management zones
- Yield targeting in major management zones
- Computing crop removal of nutrients
- Calculating nutrient requirement (amount and ratio)
- Blending of nutrients based on the generated information
Customized fertilizer formulation
Fertilizer association of India is recommending certain specifications for a particular grade of formulation. For basal application it should be granular in size with minimum 90 percent materials remains between 1 - 4 mm Indian standard sieve and size less than 1 mm should not exceed 5 percent and the product should not exceed 1.5 percent.
Foliar application grades should be 100 percent water soluble. Minimum nutrient content in the grade should be 30 units of all the nutrients combined.
Customized formulations available in India
There are about 36 formulations approved by fertilizer control order of India. The important companies in the market producing customized fertilizers are Tata Chemicals Ltd., Deepak Fertilizers, Nagarjuna Fertilizers, Coromandel Industries Ltd. etc.
Advantages of customized fertilizers
- First and foremost objective is to promote site specific nutrient management.
- Usually farmers used to apply fertilizers without knowing any requirement of the crop. But here maximum fertilizer use efficiency can be achieved in a cost effective manner.
- Customized fertilizers are depends on soil, crop, water and specific nutrients.Nutrient management is a major component of a soil and crop management systems. Site specific nutrient management is applying those concepts to areas within a field that are known to require different management options from the field average.
- Customized fertilizers includes 100 percent water soluble grades as customized combination products required in various stages of crop growth based on research findings and it is readily available to crops and as it is a soil-crop-climate based fertilizer and is less influenced by soil, plant and climatic condition that lead to more uptakes of nutrients and less loss of nutrient.
- It supplies the plant available nutrients in adequate amount and in proper proportion, leads to the balanced application as it supplies not only primary nutrients but also secondary and micro nutrients and the particular texture ensures uniform distribution of nutrients.
- As it is 100 percent water soluble it can be used for fertigation purposes. So it has got importance in high-tech farming system. It can maximise nutrient use efficiency.
- Customized fertilizer satisfies crop’s nutritional demand, specific to area, soil, and growth stage of plant. As the micronutrients are also added with the granulated NPK fertilizer the plants can absorb the micronutrient along with macronutrient which prevents nutrient deficiency in plant.
It is clear that customized fertilize is no doubt a marker in fertilizer revolution which may aggravate the scope of Site Specific Nutrient Management and Precision Agriculture.
The customized fertilizer may include the combination of nutrient based on soil testing and requirement of crop and the formulation may be of primary, secondary and micro-nutrients. Innovative product like customized fertilizers specific to agro climatic conditions can be offered to the farmers to remediate nutrient deficiency particularly secondary and micronutrients for popularize the concept.
It is the time to provide incentives to farmers using 100% water soluble fertilizers in view of quality produce. It is clear that customized fertilizer using farmer would not have to buy different fertilizers or worry about the quantity of fertilizer to be added. So the product would provide a simplest approach for the fertilizer application to the farmers.
Jeevika K1 and Sreya U Parvathi2
1 Assistant Professor, Vanavarayar Institute of Agriculture, Pollachi – 642 103.
2 Research Scholar, Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, KAU College of Agriculture, Vellayani, Thiruvananthapuram- 695 522.