Following two decades of their widespread use in the West, chemical fertilisers and pesticides were overused in India during the 1960s and 1970s Green Revolution (also known as the new seed-fertilizer-water technology). This resulted in the soil becoming harder, losing fertility, polluting the air and water, and posing risks to human health and the environment. Ironically, the government appears to be eager to spread the effects of this chemical-seed-fertilizer technology to other parts of the country, despite the terrible effects of the Green Revolution in the northern regions of the country in recent years. However, the risks of chemical fertilisers to the environment and public health have been amply documented by studies conducted from time to time, and they seriously jeopardise sustainable development. From this vantage point, switching to bio-fertilizers and organic farming from a system of farming that relies heavily on chemical fertilisers and pesticides appears to be a workable alternative given that the latter is seen as being safer for the environment and human health. https://molecularchemicalltd.com/
Environmental Impacts of Chemical Fertilizers
Chemical or synthetic fertilisers are essentially salts by definition, thus it is assumed that they will eventually impair agriculture. However, their producers marketed them with the false hope that they would replace the soil’s nutrients. Contrary to popular belief, studies periodically conducted have shown that synthetic fertilisers tend to deplete other nutrients and minerals naturally present in rich soil while replenishing only nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. According to these studies, the continued use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in the field also contributed to a decrease in soil fertility.
As phosphorus does not dissolve in water, excessive phosphatic fertiliser application causes the soil to become harder, whereas alkaline fertilisers like sodium-nitrate and basic slag cause the soil to become more alkaline and less fertile. Increased use of chemical fertilisers also leads to an unfavourable imbalance in the amount of certain nutrients in the soil, which in turn has a negative impact on soil fertility and plants.
Pesticides used to eradicate undesired herbs from fields, insecticides to kill pests, and compounds with bio-cidal action that harm rodents, among other things, all impair soil fertility. Pesticides have a variety of effects that degrade the land. By their actions, they exterminate some beneficial species, such as earth worms and microorganisms that preserve the soil’s natural fertility. In a healthy soil, bacteria and other microbes help transform nitrogen from the air into a form that plants can use. They also assist break down organic materials into plant nutrients. Other beneficial soil bacteria include “disease organisms” that control parasites like cutworms, chinch bugs, and grubs. The soil becomes harder as the organic matter in the soil declines, which not only affects the vegetation but also reduces infiltration and water retention ability.
Additionally, both directly and indirectly, the aqua system is contaminated by the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. For instance, fish and invertebrates are poisoned by nitrogen. Humans are also poisoned by it. People who rely on rural wells for their drinking water run a higher risk of contracting diseases like methemoglobinemia, often known as Blue Baby Syndrome, which destroys blood cells and is linked to contaminated ground water with high nitrate concentrations. One of the most widely used herbicides, atrazine, is recognised to be a widespread water pollutant. Insects, planktons, crustaceans, and fish that live in water are proven to be more harmful to pesticides developed recently. The pesticide atrazine can affect the entire aquatic system at even low concentrations by contaminating streams, ponds, and estuaries. It might prevent the formation of plankton and algae, which would have an impact on the food and reproduction of fish or other aquatic life.
Chemical pesticides have been found to kill non-target pests, birds, and microorganisms that are helpful to agriculture and the environment while no longer killing the target pests because they have evolved a resistance to absorbing their residue. Although they can be broken, some pesticides, including organochlorine, reach non-target organisms significantly more quickly than DDT. They become part of the human food chain and continue to accumulate in animals like eagles, falcons, and kites. It is brought on by the recent drop in eagle numbers. In India, there have been reports of kite and vulture populations declining as a result of the usage of pesticide by a multinational US company. Only recently, in response to ecologists’ protests, was it outlawed.
Once more, using pesticides degrades the ecosystem by contaminating the soil and water supply, as well as the air. Because pesticides can combine with the air as vapour even with a light application. There is a risk of poisoning bees and other pollinators as a result. Chemical fertilisers and pesticides harm the ecosystem by contaminating the air, water, and soil in addition to endangering biodiversity, which affects both flora and wildlife.
Our Health and Chemical and Bio-Fertilizers
By leaving a remnant in the food chain, pesticides and excessive use of chemical fertilisers also have an adverse effect on our health. There is evidence that pesticide residues in vegetables contribute to chronic diseases including cancer and other systemic dysfunctions in people. The risks extend to a much larger population than only farmers because of residues in food and water.
Researchers found that synthetic nitrogen fertiliser leaves dangerous nitrates in vegetables at least 16 times more than that found in vegetables cultivated organically in a twelve-year study comparing foods grown chemically and organically. Nitrates and pesticide residues contain components that can cause cancer. Vegetables include the omega-3 fatty acid, which guards against heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. But it is getting smaller every day in foods that were cultivated chemically. It is clear that before World War II, when chemical fertilisers were not utilised, these diseases were not extremely prevalent.
Minerals included in food are essential to human health, according to scientists. They protect us from illness. We need more than just calories and vitamins to survive. However, research has shown that chemical pesticides and fertilisers deplete crops and vegetables of vital minerals. Chemically cultivated veggies have substantially less of these minerals than vegetables grown using an organic method of production. Therefore, it is claimed that eating food produced using modern farming techniques will just satisfy your hunger while leaving you lacking in nourishment.
Once more, tests conducted by scientists in the US and UK over the past 70 years have found that organic fruits and vegetables contained 27% more vitamin C than those grown conventionally. Furthermore, they always had higher mineral contents and far lower levels of dangerous nitrates.
Alternatives Using Bio-Fertilizers and Bio-Pesticides
Bio-fertilizers, as opposed to synthetic fertilisers, wouldn’t have any negative effects on our health or the environment. Excreta from animals, such as cow dung, vermin compost, dhanicha (green manure), organic wastes, agricultural residues, manure, etc., of a biological or organic origin are considered bio-fertilizers. The use of bio-fertilizers restores the soil’s natural fertility while protecting earthworms and other microbial life. In addition, the food is not contaminated by the hazardous residues left by chemical fertilisers. Far from it, they would keep the soil’s natural minerals that the plant takes up.
Vermin compost and other bio-fertilizers will improve soil fertility and stop soil from becoming too hard. Additionally, the soil’s live microorganisms and rodents would break down the naturally occurring nitrogen in the air for plant usage. Again, it will be helpful in enabling rainwater to seep in rather than contributing to water logging. Since there won’t be much nitrogen leaching into the ground to contaminate the water, using bio-fertilizers won’t have a bad impact on ground water.
Again, cleaning the environment will result from using plant and animal wastes as manures in fields. The accumulated organic waste can be turned into compost to lessen environmental damage. Pond and aquatic system deposits can also be utilised as insecticides and bio-fertilizers. This will improve field productivity while cleaning the aquatic system.
Bio-pesticides made from standardised bacteria and natural biological resources like plants, as opposed to deadly chemical pesticides, have no negative side effects. Neem leaf and oil, karanj (derris indica) extracts and oil, and cow urine are examples of local bio-pesticides that can be employed as fungicides and insecticides. They do not harm the environment or harm non-target pests, unlike chemical pesticides.
Neem is prepared in a variety of ways, such as neem oil, cakes, and kernels. Since the dawn of time, farmers in the Indian subcontinent have utilised neem leaves and oil as powerful pesticides and preservatives. Neem has a variety of qualities that make it an effective pest control agent, according to scientists in India, the US, and Europe. Neem functions as a pest repellent and ovipositional deterrent, meaning that pests do not spread eggs on plants treated with neem extracts, according to studies. Neem does not kill pests instantly.
Effective insecticides and miticides can be manufactured from karanj oil and the preparations made from it, which are presently sold by companies that make them. Preparations derived from karanj are efficient at controlling all types of mites that harm plants, including red spider mites, scarlet mites, yellow mites, and others.
Although the creation of hybrid seeds for grains, pulses, and other crops increased production and protected the nation’s expanding population from poverty, since the 1960s it has also necessitated a higher use of chemical fertilisers, some of which must be imported from wealthier nations. After two decades of the Green Revolution, it was discovered that the soil was becoming less fertile, necessitating an increasing amount of chemical fertilisers for the high yielding varieties (HYV) of seeds to increase productivity, while pesticides needed to be used in higher concentrations as pests became more resistant. Currently, the situation is so serious that productivity cannot be increased without going over the harmful threshold for fertiliser use that negatively impacts both the environment and human health, particularly in areas like Haryana and Punjab where chemical fertiliser consumption per capita is very high. Should we continue using HYV seed-chemical fertilisers technology in light of the above-mentioned dangerous effects of synthetic or chemical fertilisers and pesticides? What are the alternatives if not? A system of organic farming that relies on native seeds rather than HYV seeds, along with bio-fertilizers and local insecticides, appears to be the only option in the current situation. The use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides must be eliminated through the promotion and propagation of organic farming, and it is time for both the Union and State Governments to awaken from their slumber.