Efficient fertilizer use: The key to food security and better environment

Rajendra Prasad


Since the inception of Green Revolution there has been a race for increasing foodgrain (mainly cereals) production using chemical fertilizers in India. However, cereal production in the country increased only five fold, while fertilizer consumption increased 322 times during the 1950–51 to 2007–08 period, implying a very low fertilizer use efficiency. Large scale applications of fertilizer nitrogen (N) have also shown deleterious effects on groundwater quality, especially its nitrate content, which is harmful to health. Furthermore, gaseous losses of N as NH3 and NOx resulting from N fertilization have adverse effects on the environment. Therefore, the goal of Indian agriculture has to be to “increase food-grain production with the minimum and efficient use of chemical fertilizers”. This calls for a sincere effort on the part of agricultural scientists including extension workers to increase the efficiency of fertilizers applied in the farm fields. An effective nutrient management involves development of site specific nutrient recommendations including balanced NPK doses, timely application of fertilizers using appropriate methods, development and production of slow-release N fertilizers and indigenous nitrification inhibitors, and developing and practicing an integrated plant nutrient supply system (IPNS) using chemical fertilizers, organic manures, crop residues, and biofertilizers. In addition to proper nutrient management, other aspects of soil and crop management including the use of high yielding, nutrient-efficient cultivars, correcting soil physical and chemical problems and water management, disease and pest management (IPM), and post-harvest care and safe storage are important to achieve high fertilizer use efficiency.


Fertilizer use efficiency; Nutrient use efficiency; Agronomic efficiency; Crop response ratio; Nitrification inhibitors; Slow-release fertilizers; Site specific nutrient management; Integrated plant nutrient supply; N-balance.

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A KAU publication [CODEN: JTAGEI; ISSN 0971-636X; eISSN 0973-5399]