April 12, 2024
Agricultural Micronutrient

Boosting Agricultural Productivity with Micronutrient Management

Importance of Micronutrients in Agriculture

Agriculture is one of the most important sectors not only in our economy but also for our sustenance. However, there are certain micronutrient deficiencies in our soil that negatively impact crop growth and yields. Micronutrients play a vital yet often overlooked role in enabling healthy plant growth. This article discusses the significance of micronutrients in agriculture and strategies to overcome deficiencies.

What are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients, also known as trace elements, are plant nutrients that are needed in small quantities compared to macronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Some key micronutrients include:

– Iron (Fe)
– Zinc (Zn)
– Manganese (Mn)
– Copper (Cu)
– Boron (B)
– Molybdenum (Mo)
– Chlorine (Cl)

Although needed only in small amounts, Agricultural Micronutrients are just as essential for plant growth and development as macronutrients. They help facilitate many enzymatic processes in plants and play a critical role in photosynthesis, nitrogen metabolism and oxygen uptake by roots.

Impact of Micronutrient Deficiencies
Deficiency of even one micronutrient can negatively impact crop yield, quality and farm income. Some direct effects of micronutrient deficiencies include:

– Reduced growth and stunted plants due to impaired photosynthesis
– Yellowing or reddening of leaves and slower greening of new growth (chlorosis)
– Crooked plant growth and deformed fruits and vegetables
– Increased pest and disease susceptibility due to weak immune system
– Reduced grain and fruit set leading to lower crop yields

In India, soil micronutrient deficiencies affect over 15 million hectares of cultivated land. The states most prone to deficiencies are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Deficiencies of zinc, boron and iron are widely reported. This translates to annual agricultural losses estimated at over 30,000 crores.

Addressing Micronutrient Deficiencies
It is important for farmers to test their soil regularly and address any micronutrient deficiencies identified. Some strategies to overcome deficiencies include:

Foliar Sprays and Seed Treatment
Direct application of micronutrient solutions as foliar sprays or seed treatment can rapidly correct deficiencies during the crop cycle. Chelated micronutrients are more effective forms.

Soil Application
Applying micronutrient fertilizers or amendments to soil helps restore long-term micronutrient levels. Common soil application methods include broadcasting, band placement and soil injection.

Use of Biofortified Seeds
Crops bred to accumulate higher levels of micronutrients in edible parts through conventional and molecular breeding help address “hidden hunger”. For example, zinc-biofortified rice and pearl millet varieties developed by ICRISAT are making an impact.

Integrated Nutrient Management
Following balanced fertilization practices where macronutrients, organic manures and micronutrients are applied together helps improve soil health and nutrient availability for crops.

Crop Rotation and Intercropping
Rotating crops and growing intercrops helps alleviate micronutrient deficiencies as different crops vary in their micronutrient needs from soil. For example, legumes can fix atmospheric nitrogen and also solubilize soil phosphorus making it available to other intercrops.

Policy Efforts and Awareness
There is a need for increased awareness about micronutrient deficiencies among farmers through extension services. Government schemes ensure availability and affordability of micronutrient fertilizers. Promoting balanced plant nutrition is crucial for sustainable agriculture.

Micronutrients play a hidden but highly significant role in enabling robust plant growth, yields and quality produce. Overcoming micronutrient deficiencies requires a multi-pronged strategy involving soil testing, use of micronutrient amendments as per deficiencies identified, adoption of integrated nutrition practices and policy support. Combined efforts of stakeholders are needed to promote balanced plant nutrition for agricultural sustainability and improved farm incomes.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it