THE use of adulterated fertilisers, that too, with nutrient deficiencies coming to harm soil fertility over the years appears to be a matter of concern and failure in fertiliser administration on part of the government agencies involved. The fertiliser management wing of the Department of Agricultural Extension, which ran test on 200 fertiliser samples, collected from 20 districts, in 10 months until April, found 40 of them, as New Age reported on Friday, to be substandard, lacking in the required level of nutrients. Other studies show that the fertilisers contain high level of heavy metals. This is worrying in that the use of such adulterated fertilisers entail harms in three ways. Firstly, this has an economic impact as adulterated fertilisers have low nutrient contents, forcing farmers to buy more fertilisers to provide for the required nutrients for enough crop nutrients. Secondly, this reduces crop production, affects food quality and holds back the government from attaining the goal of national food security. Thirdly, it does soil poisoning, harming the health of soil, making production from the same soil, in future, dangerous for human health. The worrying situation came to light when the Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture, for two years until this June, tested 434 samples of seven types of fertiliser.
Of the samples sent to BINA for tests by DAE field officers, 76 to 89 per cent of triple superphosphate, diammonium phosphate, boron and gypsum was found to be substandard, containing nutrients below the required level. Researchers at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute have found urea fertiliser adulterated with salt, phosphate fertiliser with cement-coated pebbles and muriate of potash fertiliser with brick crusts. The decline in soil health is also corroborated by the fact that the use of fertiliser, since it began to be used in the 1950s, has increased many times, tripling from 220kg per hectare in 1990 to about 600kg now. A Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University has also raised concern about low-quality fertiliser being smuggled from neighbouring countries and being imported from some other sources. All this points to a poor enforcement of regulations in fertiliser administration, marketing, application and import. The Soil Resources Development Institute is reported to have found, in 2010, about 40 per cent of urea and non-urea fertilisers adulterated and containing high level of heavy metals. The institute revealed a similar situation in cases of urea fertiliser in 2013. Yet, the agencies concerned, or the government for that matter, are yet to take any steps to attend to failures in fertiliser administration.
A situation continuing like this is feared to be adding to inert material ratio in soil, which might gradually affect biological activities in soil. The government, under the circumstances, must immediately attend to the issue, by stepping up its oversight on the marketing, production, application and import of fertilisers and making farmers aware of the quality of fertilisers sold on the market. Unless the government goes for an integrated fertiliser management to bring down the rapidly growing dependence on chemical fertilisers, a sustainable growth in agricultural production may be severely harmed in no time.
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