Improving fertilizer use efficiency to reduce losses and enhance crop productivity
The Fertilizer Use Efficiency (FUE) is defined as the amount of grains (yield) produced per kilogram of fertilizer applied. The rate of growth of agriculture in its broad coverage of crop production is much below the national growth rate. If the economy of the country has to be improved through agriculture, it is necessary to strengthen its plans in such a way that better utilization of natural resources and use of balanced fertilizers and other inputs. We are well aware that for improvement in the food production to fulfill the food demands of the growing population of the country, agricultural sustainability and environmental protection are the priority issues.
To avoid wastage of valuable natural resources and to decrease the environmental issues there is necessity to develop and demonstrate the balanced use of synthetic fertilizer. This will help to increase the crop production in a sustainable way. High crop production needs more amount of plant nutrition. As no single source is able to supply amount of nutrients which are required by the crop and integrated use of all sources is a must to supply balanced nutrition to plants.
The world consumes 216.02 tons fertilizer every year in the form of inorganic or synthetic fertilizer out of which Pakistan consumes only 1.18 million tons annually. According to the facts in 2009-2010 Pakistan imported 1.35 million tons fertilizers which is 45 per cent more than that Pakistan had imported in 2000-2001. In Pakistan on an average major fertilizers Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are used 183.2 kg/hectare. Green era bought revolution in agriculture industry this era improved the production but it was not possible to get bumper production without many fold increase in fertilizers. The high production cultivars help to convert chemical energy into biological production. Yet we have not enjoyed the potential of these varieties. Optimum potential of available technology remains mostly unknown in most of areas as dose of nutrients do not match according to the demand of the crop plant and soil.
In cropping area of different regions since there is a huge difference of fertilizer consumption per hectare. Punjab is consuming more than 167 kg/ha nutrients in the form of fertilizers as against some consuming less than 10 kg nutrients per hectare. Consumption of fertilizer in wheat-rice cropping system is about 70-80 per cent. Besides this cash crops (cotton, sugarcane, potato) and horticulture crops are also major recipients of the remaining amount of fertilizer. In the rain-fed regions which cover 22 per cent of the total cropping area of the country use of fertilizer is very poor. Different regions having different cropping system also have different consumption ratio of major nutrients (N: P: K). During the recent years these differences clearly magnified and showed aberrations due to sudden increase in price of fertilizers.
Balanced fertilization: A key factor in improving fertilizer use efficiency
Balanced fertilizers does not mean a certain proportion of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium or any other micro nutrients is to be added in soil in the form of fertilizer. It has to take into account that availability of nutrients according to the requirements of soil, crop and other factors. It should take into consideration that removal of nutrients by crop, the economics of fertilizers and profitability, farmers knowledge, soil moisture, nutrients available in soil, seed rate, sowing time, weed control, plant protection, physical and microbial condition of soil. It is not a state but a dynamic concept.
We can say that use of fertilizer in balanced amount should be mainly aimed at:
(a) to improve crop yield,
(b) to improve crop quality,
(c) to increase farm income,
(d) management of soil inherent nutrient deficiencies,
(e) to maintain or enhance soil fertility,
(f) avoiding damage to the environment, and
(g) restoring fertility and productivity of the land that has been gradually degraded by false and exploitative methods in the past.
Use of fertilizers in balanced amount improves nutrient deficiency, enhance soil fertility level, improves fertilizer and water use efficiency, increase crop production, helps in the safety of environment and ultimately also improves the farmers income. To enjoy the benefits of balanced use of fertilizer, key importance is given to use good quality seed, time and number of irrigations and better agronomic practices with greater emphasis on timeliness and precision in farm operations.
No doubt another important source of nutrient is organic form but due to less available nutrients, more amount and less release rate is inadequate to meet the requirement of high yielding crop varieties.Huge amount of organic manures is not available and cannot be generated. Thus nutrients from organic sources are only used in meeting to some extent of the nutrients demand of the plant. They may be applied along with synthetic fertilizers for ensuring sustainability and stability of food production.
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