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Transgenic seeds to push up fertiliser consumption

Dilip Kumar Jha  |  Mumbai 

Asix per cent rise in area under transgenic crops could double fertiliser consumption.

As estimated by Charudatta Digambarrao Mayee, chairman of Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board (ASRB), the new genotype, which scientists are striving to introduce, will require higher amounts of fertiliser for higher yields.

If the area under advanced transgenic seeds increases to 10 per cent in a few years from the present level of 4 per cent, the country’s fertiliser consumption will increase 107 per cent to 220 kgs per hectare (ha) from the current levels (the latest available figure 2005-06), at 106 kgs per ha.

But, for that the government needs to commercialise many genetically modified crops which are under various stages of field trials, Mayee said.

Union Steel Chemicals and Fertiliser Minister had recently said the fertiliser subsidy is likely to rise upto Rs 1,14,000 crore from Rs 36,000 crore last year.

Currently, the government has allowed the commercialisation of genetically engineered seed in cotton only. Last season, 7.6 million ha area was covered under engineered seed of the total 9.5 million ha under cotton crop in the country. However, transgenic technologies can help deal with pests, diseases, weeds, nutrition, and also drought or soil salinity.

The cultivated land in the country is 143 million ha out of the total geographical area of around 329 million ha. There is a double cropping system on 143 million ha because of 55 million ha of net irrigated area.

Therefore, the total gross cropped area in the country is around 190 million ha which includes area under kharif, rabi and summer.

Today, different crops are grown during various seasons round the year on this 190 million ha. For example, rice is grown on 43 million ha, wheat 28 million ha, coarse cereals like jawar and bajra 30 million ha, pulses 15 million ha and oilseeds are grown on 24 million ha. None of these crops have engineered seed.

The fertiliser consumption of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) compound has increased from 0.066 mt tonnes in 1950-51 to 20.3 mt tonnes in 2005-06. The fertiliser consumption rate was only 0.45 kg per hectare in 1950-51 which was increased to 106 kg per hectare in 2005-06.

Today, India’s fertiliser consumption is the lowest in the world with a total consumption of about 160 kg NPK per ha, which is much below than the consumption in developed countries including China.

“Fertiliser has been key input in increasing food production in the country and introduction of engineered seed will not reduce fertiliser consumption in India,” the scientist added.

He, however, said that consumable agricultural commodities including Bt brinjal, golden rice or any other crops will have no impact in the longer run because there is a process in the country for evaluating biosafety, food safety, environmental safety of all such products for a long period before being permitted into commercial agriculture. Standards norms are also decided by the international bodies and these are being followed in the country.

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