Why do farmers still favour nitrogenous fertilisers first?

The Soil Health Card and the required neem coating of urea, two ambitious Central government programmes, were intended to encourage the balanced use of fertilisers. The yearly consumption of this nitrogenous fertiliser has only increased from 30 to 35 million tonnes (mt) in the last five years, far from weaning farmers off of it.

An increase in nitrogenous fertiliser sales

  • Increase in urea and DAP sales: This year, urea sales increased by 3.7% from April to October compared to the same time in 2021. However, di-ammonium phosphate sales increased much more, by 16.9%. (DAP).
  • Sales are not distributed properly: It has happened despite a decline in sales of all other fertilisers, including complexes with varying amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), potassium (K), and sulphur (S).
  • Farmers in India typically choose urea and DAP: In other words, Indian farmers are essentially using only urea and DAP, both high-analysis fertilisers containing 46% N and P respectively, instead of balancing plant nutrients based on soil tests and unique crop requirements.

Reasons for increasing use of Urea and DAP Fertilizers

  • The firms decontrol or fix the non-urea fertiliser: The maximum retail price (MRP) for urea has been set by the government at Rs 5,628 per tonne. Although the MRPs of other fertilisers are theoretically no longer regulated, firms have been “told” to keep DAP prices below Rs 27,000/tonne.
  • Prices that are formally fixed are higher: For NPKS complexes and muriate of potash (MOP), the unofficially established MRPs are higher at Rs 29,000-31,000 and Rs 34,000 per tonne, respectively. However, farmers lack motivation to purchase at these prices.
  • Farmers are hesitant to apply complexes like 10:26:26:0, 12:32:16:0, and 20:20:0:13 when DAP is less expensive and contains 46% P and 18% N. DAP is also easier to apply.
  • The main issue with excess micronutrients is the price: Most farmers wouldn’t be concerned about DAP’s lack of K, S, or other macro- and micronutrients. Their selection of fertilisers is mostly influenced by pricing.
  • Individual ferlizers’ subsidies are to blame: Underpricing of urea (a historical phenomenon) and DAP (recent) is a result of market distortions brought on by subsidies, and the Government is solely to blame.

Effects of excessive use

  • Ideal ratio against the present NPK ratio: Crop yields would ultimately reflect the influence of these factors since the present NPK ratio is approximately 13:5:1, as opposed to the optimal 4:2:1.
  • Plants won’t react well: If only one or two nutrients are provided in excess to plants, they will not respond well to fertilisers, similar to humans.
  • Impedes soil health: Overuse of chemical fertilisers eliminates all soil-based microorganisms, which are vital for preserving soil health.

What the government can do?

  • The Government could introduce a per-hectare cash distribution in place of specific fertiliser product subsidies, perhaps twice a year.
  • E-wallet account for solely remitting funds to buy fertiliser: Before the kharif and rabi planting seasons, this money can be deposited into any farmer’s e-wallet account. Only fertilisers may be purchased using the e-wallet.
  • Keeping a store of essential fertilisers: The government can keep a stock of essential fertilisers, such as urea and DAP, to ensure that there won’t be any unfavourable price increases even in the event of a decontrol.

“PM PRANAM” scheme

  • The Union government is planning a new programme called PM PRANAM, which stands for PM Promotion of Alternate Nutrients for Agriculture Management Yojana, to encourage states to use less chemical fertiliser.
  • The proposed plan aims to lessen the financial burden of chemical fertilisers’ subsidies.
  • If the problem is not solved, this load is projected to rise to Rs 2.25 lakh crore in 2022–2023, a 39% increase over the amount from the previous year of Rs 1.62 lakh crore.
  • The Department of Fertilizers’ programmes will use “savings of existing fertiliser subsidies” to fund the programme, which will not have a separate budget.


Undoubtedly, electoral politics’ demands have taken precedence over worries about nutrient imbalances in the soil. In the long run, farming will not benefit from price distortions in fertilisers. Government cash distributions may be dependent on acreage.

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