How Green Is My Fertiliser
Forbes India|December 18,2020
An Indo-Australian collaborative effort is using nano-biotechnology to make fertilisers that improve crop yields, while reducing carbon footprints
Harichandan Arakali

On an average, a farmer in India has to use about 100 kg of various conventional fertilisers to grow 1 acre of paddy. While some part of the fertiliser is absorbed by the plants, the rest leach through the soil into the ground water, thus going to waste and causing pollution. If the farmer uses a nano fertiliser, she will need only a few grams for 1 acre; the crop will have a higher yield because it absorbs almost all the nutrients from the fertiliser, there will be no wastage, and, therefore, no soil or water pollution.

Working towards researching and manufacturing these nano-fertilisers for a variety of crops is the TERI Deakin Nano-Biotechnology Centre in Gurugram. It has field-tested some of these fertilisers, and found improvements in the crop yields of tomatoes, paddy and soybean, and is conducting further field trials in many states across India.

The Centre was established in 2010 as a collaboration between Indian research think tank The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Australia’s Deakin University, with the aim of identifying and developing new ways of producing farm profitability through nano-biotechnology while conserving natural resources.

Scientists believe nanobiotechnology holds the potential for reviving the agriculture and food industries, as well as improving the livelihoods of those who work in these sectors. “A categorical shift can be brought about by applying nano-biotechnology to the challenge of sustainable food production, increasing use efficiency and yields,” says Alok Adholeya, director of the Centre.

The TERI-Deakin University partnership evolved as a response to a growing need for solutions to problems in food, agriculture, environment, and bioenergy, says Ravneet Pawha, deputy vice president (global) and CEO (South Asia) at Deakin University. It brought together the university’s expertise in nano-materials with the experience of TERI in biotech applications. The Centre has worked in the areas of food security, increasingly changing climates, remediation of polluted environments through natural products, improving health through novel molecules, and improving the quality of life for poor communities, she adds.

Since its inception, the Centre has made significant strides in developing nano-nutrients, nano-pesticides and nano-formulations as targeted solutions for global challenges such as soil health, food security, and water safety, Adholeya says. The Centre is preparing to commercialise its products, and has validated its technologies and manufacturing processes for safety and other norms based on OECD’s and India’s guidelines. It is also getting ready to ramp up manufacturing.

GLOBAL FOOD TRENDS

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