Agriculture is one of the main driving forces of Bangladesh's economy. The development and future of our country depend on agriculture.
Our country has made remarkable growth in agriculture since independence. This is both in terms of growth in yield and output of cereal production. Food production in Bangladesh has kept its pace with its population growth.
Despite population growth over time, the country has attained food self-sufficiency at the aggregate level and increased calorie availability. On average, access to food has also improved. This has been due to the Green Revolution experienced by the country during the past decades. Along with growth, food consumption pattern has also changed.
We cannot achieve the desired progress neglecting the agriculture sector. Hence, we should opt for the best solution for this sector. Organic fertilizer may be the right answer considering its comparative advantages.
Organic fertilizer composts are made by decomposing biodegradable wastes which include paper, leaves, fruit peelings, leftover foods, fruit juices, cow dung, poultry manure, biogas slurry, oilcake, blood meal, bone meal etc.Chemical fertilizers are chemically/synthetically manufactured in the factory while organic fertilizers are biologically produced at homestead, farmyard and farm.
Organic fertilizer, when added to the soils, undergoes decomposition. As a result, nutrients are released and become available to plant uptake. Continuous use of organic fertilizers increases the micronutrient availability. Total nitrogen content increases and benefits the crop by application of organic fertilizer.
Each year, Bangladesh requires around four million ton chemical fertilizer. To meet this immediate target, the agriculture land of Bangladesh has faced dire consequences of over and pre-dominant dependence on chemical fertilizer, which has resulted in declined organic matters in most of the areas.
It is high time we should look back and see what is the appropriate solution to this fast approaching crisis towards us and our future generation and strategically move forward with a well-weaved policy framework promoting the use of organic fertilizer so as to replenish our land with enough nutrients which are essential for growing food crops and help our upcoming generation survive.
According to agriculturists, a standard soil should have minimum 3.4% organic matters but in most areas in Bangladesh it is in between 1-1.7% (4.14mh) and in some areas (1.09mc) it is less than 1%.
Due to changing scenario of soil fertility management with emphasis on organic matter replenishment, the organic fertilizers can play a vital role in restoring fertility of soil as well as organic matter status of soil.
It is mentionable that organic fertilizer ensures balanced nutrition and maintenance of long term fertility. Organic fertilizer is fertilizer prepared from the decomposition of any product of plant and/or animal origin as long as the raw materials are not collected from unsafe source like industrial waste, toxic waste, hospital waste etc.
The economic value of organic fertilizer to a farmer is the value of increase in crop yield and/or crop quality that is derived from its use. Besides supplying essential plant nutrients, organic fertilizer, irrespective of its sources, produces desirable physical, chemical and biological changes needed urgently for soils.
As the soil goes through the plants cycle of planting and harvesting and de-cropping, it becomes stripped bare of nutrients and the pH balance is also affected as well. Organic fertilizer helps correct these imbalances in the soil pH to make it more suitable for plant growth.
The use of the organic fertilizer ensures that the food items produced are free of harmful chemicals. As a result, the end consumers who eat these organic products are less prone to diseases such as cancer, strokes, and skin disorders, as compared to those who consume food items produced using chemical fertilizers.
In addition to the on-farm production possibilities of organic fertilizers, organic fertilizers help in maintaining the soil structure and increasing its nutrient-holding capacity. Therefore, a farmer who has practiced organic farming for many years will require far less fertilizer, because his soil is already rich in essential nutrients.
Organic fertilizers are easily bio-degradable and do not cause environmental pollution. On the other hand, chemical fertilizers contaminate both the land and water, which is a major cause of diseases for human beings and is the force behind the extinction of a number of plants, animals, and insect species.
We all know that chemical fertilizers are made in large plants that are automated and have an annual capacity of millions of tons. Organic fertilizers, on the other hand, are prepared locally and on a much smaller scale. As a result, the production of organic fertilizers leads to employment, especially in rural areas where employment opportunities can sometimes be bleak.
Scientists have found high concentration of toxic chemicals like cadmium, lead and chromium in fertilizers, which may affect agriculture ecosystem and thereby human health through food chain. About 40% urea and non-urea fertilizers available in the market are adulterated. This was revealed in a recent sample analysis of different kinds of fertilizer by Soil Resources Development Institute (SRDI).
SRDI has identified highest 40,258 ppm (parts per million) cadmium and 31,292 ppm lead in locally produced zinc sulphate available in the local market. This amount is alarmingly higher as allowable level of cadmium and lead is only 10ppm and 100 ppm respectively. Annually, around 50,000 tones of zinc sulphate are used in Bangladesh.
Expressing concern on this issue, Prof. ABM Faroque of Pharmacy department of Dhaka University, said once in food chain, that cadmium and lead could affect liver, kidney and cause blood cancer and thalassemia.
Bangladesh has good opportunities for production of organic fertilizer. Cities generate wastes approximately 13,332 ton per day, majority of which are organic in nature. The national 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) strategy of the government strongly encourages waste recycling to produce and promote the use of bio fertilizer.
Estimates of national availability of straw, dung, poultry litter indicate that about 45 million tons of straw, 35 million tons of dung and 5 million tons poultry litter are produced annually.
Besides, there are many other materials such as water hyacinth, kitchen wastes, slaughter house residues, industrial wastes and non-edible portion of fruits and vegetables that constitute potential sources of raw materials for production of organic fertilizer.
The raw materials needed to make an organic fertilizer can be found even in our homes. Biodegradable wastes can be recycled and turned into compost.Agriculturists said a number of problems are hindering the usage, production and marketing of organic fertilizer in the country.
The bottlenecks include no policy support to encourage and produce organic fertilizer, no temporary licensing mechanism for entrepreneurs, no defined procedure for the renewal of the license, very expensive procedure of laboratory testing of organic fertilizer quality for licensing, lack of awareness among the entrepreneurs/farmers about the economic potentiality of recycling of organic wastes, no institution set up in the local bodies to convert organic solid waste into organic fertilizer, no trained manpower who handle organic recycling program scientifically, insufficient and incomplete collection of solid waste, limited or no access for entrepreneurs to collect municipal solid waste from the municipality, lack in partnering initiative among public, private, community people, GOs, NGOs and CBOs, lack of adequate financing facility for entrepreneurs, no reliable statistics available on amount of current annual production of organic fertilizers from household wastes, city wastes, crops wastes and animal wastes.
Meanwhile different stakeholders of organic fertilizer sector including farmers, entrepreneurs, regulatory body and ministry echo that a strategized approach with a policy support is what we are lacking at the moment.
They called for eradicating the bottlenecks to promote the organic fertilizer, which will benefit our agriculture as well as the farmers.
This writer can be reached [email protected]
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