Mass production of biofertilisers : Abio-entrepreneurship avenue

Dr Dwipendra Thakuria, *

Just like the Himalayan State Sikkim, the entire North-East India can become a huge hub for organic farming and the capital for organic products with its own identity in the world. It can bring about a revolution with the initiative of the Indian Chamber of Commerce. The farmers of North Eastern Region (NER) of India can create their global identity with unique farm products. In the current scenario, Agri-Biotech is recognized as one of the 5 important segments (Biopharma, Agri-biotech, Bioinformatics, Bio-industrial and Bio services) of the Indian Biotechnology industry.

Agri-Biotech segment deals with the hybrid seeds and transgenic crops, biopesticides, and biofertilizers. Biofertilizer is an integral component of any type of eco-friendly farming practices. Biofertilizers contain live beneficial microorganisms either as solid carrier-based or liquid carrier-based formulations which on application to seed, root or soil mobilize the availability of nutrients by their biological activity in particular, and help build up the micro-flora and in turn the soil health in general.

An increasing number of farmers and agriculturists are turning to the use of biofertilizers as these are non-toxic to soils as against chemical fertilizers.

Assured availability of native efficient biofertilizers and biopesticides is an important factor for increasing area acreage under organic farming. To take up Biofertilizers as an avenue for rural bio-entrepreneurship by the rural educated youths, there is necessity for support in terms of skill development on biofertilizer techniques, creation of mass awareness among farming communities, development of assured market channel for locally produced native efficient biofertilizers as finished products, financial supports for establishing required infrastructures of mass production facilities, etc.

The productivity gaps of field crops, and demand and supply of biofertilizers in NER States:

The crop productivity and areas under double cropping supported by eco-friendly soil management practices are not encouraging in NER States.

A few facts on acreage, production and productivity of important crops are presented based on statistics available with Statistical Abstract Meghalaya, 2016; Statistical Abstract of Arunachal Pradesh 2015 and 2016; Statistical Hand Book Assam 2019; Department of Agriculture, Govt of Manipur; Statistical Handbook of Nagaland 2016 and 2019; Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Govt. of Tripura and Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Govt. of India. Cereals:

The productivity of kharif rice in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim was lower (-751, -540, -247, -909, -870, -896 and -697 kg ha-1, respectively) than the national average yield of rice (2553 kg ha-1).

There is huge yield gap of rice in NER states. Except the state of Assam, the yield of kharif maize in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura was lower (-1118, -354, -851, -666, -880 and -1359 kg ha-1, respectively) and the yield of rabi maize was lower in Manipur (-2688 kg ha-1), Mizoram (-3335 kg ha-1), Nagaland (-2910 kg ha-1) and Tripura (-2755 kg ha-1) in comparison to the national average yields of kharif maize (-2648 kg ha-1) and rabi maize (-4893 kg ha-1). Oilseeds: The yield gap of kharif oilseeds ranged from -5 to -526 kg ha-1 in NER states except Meghalaya and Mizoram, where kharif oilseeds yield was higher to the extent of 183 and 148 kg ha-1, respectively in comparison to the National average yield of 1168 kg ha-1.

In case of rabi oilseeds, yield was lower in the range from 515 to 889 kg ha-1 in all NER states compared to the National average yield of 1531 kg ha-1. The low pH acid soils are one of the major causes of lesser oilseed yields. Pulses: The productivity of kharif pulses in NER states is very promising. The higher yield of kharif pulses ranged from 166 to 1086 kg ha-1 in all NER states in comparison to the average National yield of 546 kg ha-1.

In case of rabi pulses, lower yield was ranged from -28 to 223 kg ha-1 in A. Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Tripura in comparison to the national average yield of 976 kg ha-1. The potential of rabi pulses in Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland are very high. In spite of huge potentials of kharif and rabi pulses in NER states, the scenario of area coverage under pulse cultivation is extremely low. The per cent acreage under kharif pulse and rabi pulse ranged from 0.1 to 6.5% and from 0 to 7.0%, respectively among NER States out of the total net sown areas of 4571 thousand ha.

Therefore, horizontal promotion of pulse cultivation in Indian Himalayas States can significantly impact the self-sufficiency on pulse production in India. In spite of huge potentials of kharif and rabi oilseeds in NER States, the scenario of area coverage under oilseeds cultivation is extremely low. The percent acreage under kharif oilseeds and rabi oilseeds ranged from 0.7 to 8% and from 0.4 to 12.4%, respectively among NER States out of the total net sown areas of 4571 thousand ha. There is huge opportunities for horizontal promotion of oilseeds cultivation in NER States that can significantly impact the self-sufficiency on oilseeds production in India.

Fertilizers: There is no use of chemical fertilizers in the States of Mizoram and Sikkim. In NER States (excluding Assam), the average use of N, P, K and NPK inorganic fertilizers are 17.02, 5.72, 3.12 and 25.86 kg ha-1, respectively. There is huge deficit in supply of nutrients in soils of NER states. This deficit nutrient supply can be made through alternative sources of nutrient in the form of organic manures and biofertilizers.

If the availability of alternative nutrient sources can be ensured, the target for promotion of organic farming in NER States can be realized. In the recent year, though Govt. of India has stressed upon increase in acreage of organic farming and promotion of pulses and oilseeds crops, the status on biofertilizers availability in NER states is very worrisome. There is a deficit in supply of biofertilizers to the tune of 16694 tonnes (if cropping intensity is considered as 100%) per year in NER States.

So, the mass production of biofertilizers through development of rural bio-entrepreneurship by rural educated youths, as a self-employment option, is identified as one of the most potential priority areas in agriculture sector. In this venture, the Research and Development Organizations like ICAR and CAUs/SAUs, etc. can play lead role by transfer of technology on biofertilizers as well as biopesticides on public-private partnership basis.

The potential market size for biofertilizer industry in NER States:

The estimated global market size of Biofertilizers is valued at USD 2.6 billion in 2021. This global market is expected to reach a value of USD 4.5 billion by 2026 with predicted compound annual growth rate 11.9% in terms of value during forecast period. In NER India, the estimated market size of biofertilizers is valued at Rs.835.00 crores in 2021 for the net sown areas of 4276 thousand hectares with an assumption of 100% cropping intensity.

If the cropping intensity can be achieved at 150% in NER States, then the total requirement of biofertiliers will be 25,656 tonnes per year and the size of the market is expected to be valued at Rs.1283 crores in NER region of India. There is a deficit in supply of biofertilizers to the tune of 16694 tonnes (if cropping intensity is considered as 100%) per year in NER states .

Initiatives of Govt. of India:

The Government of India implemented the Soil Health Mission (SHM) under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) w.e.f 1st April, 2014. W.E.F,1st April 2014). The objective of (NMSA) is to make agriculture more productive, sustainable and climate resilient; to conserve natural resources; to adopt comprehensive soil health management practices; to optimize utilization of water resources; etc.

SHM aims at promoting Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) through judicious use of chemical fertilisers including secondary and micro-nutrients in conjunction with organic manures and bio-fertilisers for improving soil health and its productivity; strengthening of soil and fertiliser testing facilities to provide soil test based recommendations to farmers for improving soil fertility; ensuring quality control requirements of fertilisers, bio-fertilisers and organic fertilisers under Fertiliser Control Order, 1985; upgradation of skill and knowledge of soil testing laboratory staff, extension staff and farmers through training and demonstrations; promoting organic farming practices, etc.

The “Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana” (PKVY) is an elaborated component of SHM within NMSA. Under PKVY Organic farming is promoted through adoption of organic village by cluster approach and the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) of certification.

With the help of PKVY, the government aims to support and promote: (1) Organic farming, (2) Reduction in dependence on fertilizers and agricultural chemicals, (3) Improvement of the soil health while increasing the yields, and (4) Organic food, thus produced will be linked with modern marketing tools and local markets.

The Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD) and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) launched in 2015 to encourage chemical free farming. Both these schemes are promoting certification under Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and National Program for Organic Production (NPOP), respectively targeting domestic and exports markets.

The funding pattern under the scheme is in the ratio of 60:40 by the Central and State Governments, respectively. In the case of North Eastern and the Himalayan States, Central Assistance is provided in the ratio of 90:10 (Centre: State).

Sub-components of Biofertilizer entrepreneurship:

There are three sub-components in biofertilizer entrepreneurship where rural educated youth can concentrate. These sub-components are: (1) mass-production of biofertilizers, (2) extension service providers, and (2) biofertilizer marketing. Biofertilizers are of different types based on their taxonomic identities namely Rhizobium, Azospirillum, Azotobacter, Bacillus, Pseudomonas,Gluconacetobacter, etc.

However, biofertilizers commonly grouped based on their functionality namely Associative N2-fixers (e.g., Azospirillum for rice, Azotobacter for oilseeds and vegetables, etc.), Symbiotic N-fixers (Rhizobium for pulses), phosphate solubilizing bacteria (PSB), potash solubilizing bacteria (KSB), Zinc solubilizing bacteria (ZnSB), compost accelerating microbes / bacteria / fungi), plant hormone producers, etc.

However, only a few bacterial biofertilizers like Rhizobium, Azospirillum, Azotobacter and PSB are available in the market. A large-groups of efficient biofertilizers are yet to be mass produced. Moreover, there is host-specificity in Rhizobium-legume symbiosis, where Rhizobium biofertilizer for specific legume crop is not available. So, there is tremendous scopes for mass production of biofertilizers and making them available to farmers. However, the technical know-how on biofertilizers among farmers are at the rudimentary stages.

Thus, promotion of biofertilizer also needs extensive extension work to convince the farmers about the need of biofertilizer use for increase in productivity. The rural educated youths are to be trained up for their skill enhancement on biofertilizer techniques, so that they themselves can act as local extension service providers to farmers and thereby earn income. Marketing of biofertilizer is a very difficult task as they are not primary inputs like seed and fertilizer.

Again, the farmers’ acceptance to biofertilizer use has been far from satisfactory. This is the main reason why effective demand has not been created so far. Even if in few cases there is the demand of biofertilizer but its limited to few types like Rhizobium, Azotobacter, and PSBs. There is a huge scope for enhancing the capacity of biofertilizer production for other specific biofertilizer agents.

To create awareness amongst the farmers and to popularize the products emphasis should be given to: (1) field demonstration (2) field day, group discussions and (3) farmers’ visits to CAUs/SAUs/ICAR institutions/State Agriculture Departments for demonstration on biofertilizer production units, etc. Besides farmers awareness there are also some other technical constraints associated with the promotion of biofertilizer in India.

As for example, Marketing constraints, because of its short self-life (liquid formulation is encouraged for longer shelf-life i.e. 6-8 months, lack of proper storage, inadequate guidelines to consumers, inadequate production/promotion efforts. There are also challenges involve in taking up an entrepreneurship.

The effective planning and proper guidance and financial assistance from Govt. departments / banks can motivate rural educated youths positively for taking Biofertilizers as a Rural Bio-entrepreneurship avenue for self-employment and helping adoption of eco-friendly farming practices by farming communities in ecologically sensitive NER states.

For further details contact:- Public Relation & Media Management Cell, CAU, Imphal. Email:

* Dr Dwipendra Thakuria, Professor (Soil Microbiology) wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is from the School of Natural Resource Management, College of Post Graduate Studies in Agricultural Sciences, Central Agricultural University (Imphal) Umiam, 793103, Meghalaya.
This article was webcasted on September 02 2021.

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