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Promotion of Balanced Fertilisation in Indian Agriculture

GS-3 Mains Exam : Economy (Agriculture)

Revision Notes


Question : Evaluate the challenges and opportunities associated with the adoption of nano-fertilizers in Indian farming practices.

Basic Concept-1

Balanced fertilisation refers to the practice of supplying plants with the essential nutrients they need in the correct proportions, based on several factors:

  • Soil type: Different soils have varying natural levels of nutrients. Sandy soils tend to be deficient in nutrients, while clay soils might retain certain nutrients more readily.
  • Crop requirements: Different crops have different nutrient needs. For example, corn requires more nitrogen (N) for healthy stalk and leaf growth, while potatoes require more potassium (K) for tuber development.

Instead of simply applying large quantities of a single fertilizer like urea (high in nitrogen), balanced fertilisation aims to provide a complete picture:

Primary nutrients (N-P-K):

  • Nitrogen (N): Crucial for plant growth, promoting leafy greens and stems.
  • Phosphorus (P): Supports root development, flowering, and seed/fruit set.
  • Potassium (K): Enhances overall plant health, stress tolerance, and disease resistance.

Secondary nutrients:

  • Calcium (Ca): Promotes cell wall strength and fruit development.
  • Magnesium (Mg): Essential for photosynthesis and chlorophyll production.
  • Sulphur (S): Plays a role in protein synthesis and enzyme activity.


  • Iron (Fe): Involved in chlorophyll production and respiration.
  • Zinc (Zn): Supports plant growth hormones and seed production.
  • Copper (Cu): Plays a role in photosynthesis and disease resistance.
  • Manganese (Mn): Essential for nutrient uptake and enzyme activation.
  • Boron (B): Crucial for cell wall formation and sugar transport.
  • Molybdenum (Mo): Involved in nitrogen fixation and enzyme activity.


Imagine a farmer is growing tomatoes. Tomatoes require a good balance of all three primary nutrients (N-P-K) for optimal fruit production.

  • Scenario 1 (Imbalanced): The farmer only applies urea (high in N). While the plants might have lush green leaves initially due to excess nitrogen, they may struggle to develop strong roots, flowers, and ultimately healthy tomatoes due to a lack of adequate phosphorus and potassium.
  • Scenario 2 (Balanced): The farmer conducts a soil test to understand the existing nutrient levels and chooses a balanced fertilizer blend containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in proportions suitable for tomatoes. This provides the plants with the right nutrients at the right time, leading to healthier growth, better fruit yield, and potentially improved resistance to diseases.

By practicing balanced fertilisation, farmers can ensure their crops receive the complete nutrient package they need to thrive, leading to improved yields, better crop quality, and potentially reduced reliance on pesticides due to increased plant health.

Basic Concept-2 :

Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) is one of the most commonly used chemical fertilizers and widely applied in India. Farmers often use it just before or at the beginning of sowing a crop.

Let’s delve into what DAP is and why it’s important for plants:

  • Composition: DAP’s chemical formula is (NH₄)₂HPO₄. This translates to containing Ammonium (NH₄) and Phosphate (HPO₄) ions. DAP provides around 18% Nitrogen (N) and 46% Phosphorus Pentoxide (P₂O₅), both essential nutrients for plants.
  • Importance for Plants:
    • Phosphorus (P): The phosphorus content in DAP is crucial for root development, flowering, and seed set. It helps plants establish strong roots, enabling them to better absorb water and nutrients from the soil. Additionally, phosphorus plays a vital role in flower and seed development.
    • Nitrogen (N): The lower amount of nitrogen present in DAP helps promote initial plant growth, particularly leaf development.
  • Example: Imagine a farmer cultivating wheat. Wheat requires a strong root system to access moisture from the soil even during dry periods. Applying DAP at sowing time increases the phosphorus content in the soil, aiding the wheat plants in developing robust roots. This not only leads to potentially better yields but also improves the crop’s tolerance towards adverse conditions like drought.

Note: While DAP is beneficial for crops, excessive use can harm soil health and impact the environment. Therefore, it’s crucial to conduct soil tests and use DAP in appropriate quantities based on the results.


Back to the Main Topic

Why in News?

  • Balanced Fertilisation is expected to be a priority for the government after the Lok Sabha polls.

What is Balanced Fertilisation?

  • Supplying essential nutrients (primary, secondary, and micro) in the right proportion based on soil type and crop needs.
  • Farmers often overuse Urea, Di-ammonium Phosphate (DAP), or Muriate of Potash (MOP), which are high in primary nutrients only.
  • Urea consumption reached a record 35.8 million tonnes (March 2024), a 16.9% increase since 2013-14.

Di-ammonium Phosphate (DAP):

  • A fertilizer containing Phosphorus (P) and Nitrogen (N), crucial for plant growth.
  • Chemical formula: (NH₄)₂HPO₄.
  • Second most commonly used fertilizer in India after Urea.

Nano DAP:

  • Liquid fertilizer with nanoparticles of DAP.
  • Source of Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorus (P).
  • Easier absorption by plants due to small size and high surface area.
  • Improves crop growth and yield, reduces environmental impact, and increases farmer profitability.

Concerns of Excessive Urea Use:

  • Environmental Impact: Nitrogen runoff into water bodies leads to eutrophication and disrupts aquatic ecosystems.
  • Soil Health: Overuse acidifies soil and depletes organic matter, reducing long-term fertility.
  • Crop Damage: Excessive use in fruit production can cause tree death.

Government Initiatives:

  • Neem-coated Urea: Increases nutrient efficiency, crop yield, soil health, and reduces diversion for non-agricultural use.
  • PM PRANAM Scheme: Incentivizes states/UTs to promote alternate fertilizers and balanced chemical fertilizer use.
  • Nano Urea: Liquid fertilizer developed by IFFCO as an alternative to conventional urea.
  • Nutrient-Based Subsidy (NBS) Policy: Subsidies based on nutrient content, encouraging balanced use of fertilizers (N, P, K).
  • Soil Health Card Scheme: Assesses soil nutrient status and provides customized recommendations for nutrient management.
  • Promotion of Precision Farming: Initiatives like PM Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) promote techniques like drip irrigation and fertigation for efficient fertilizer use, delivering nutrients directly to plant roots.

Way Ahead:

  • A holistic approach is needed:
    • Promote balanced fertilizers.
    • Improve soil health through organic farming.
    • Enhance nutrient management techniques.
    • Invest in research and development of sustainable agricultural practices.
  • Policies incentivizing efficient fertilizer use and promoting urea alternatives can help mitigate these issues.

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