Agrochemicals are substances that are used in agriculture to improve the safety and growth of plants and crops. It is necessary to understand what are agrochemicals and how they affect the environment. Read here to know more about them.
Agrochemicals were created to aid farmers in enhancing crop yields and protecting their crops from pests.
The farmer began utilizing agrochemicals in their crops to prevent and save crops. These substances were employed to reduce insect attacks and improve crop output.
Every invention, as we all know, has a disadvantage. In this case, the ecosystem is also impacted by agrochemicals since they worsen soil pollution.
What are agrochemicals?
The chemical product used in agriculture is known as an agrochemical.
Agrochemicals are primarily used to increase crop yields and reduce agricultural pest populations.
- They consist of fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides.
Agrochemical use in agricultural activities is nothing new as it has been used since 600 BCE, and people have used agrochemicals.
Sulfur was employed as a pesticide by the Sumerian farmers in about 3000 BC to prevent bug invasions.
Since there has been such rapid population development, there has been an increase in both the demand for and manufacturing synthetic chemicals.
Types of agrochemicals
Agrochemicals are classified as pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides, molluscicides, nematicides, fertilizers, soil conditioners, and limiting and acidifying agents.
- Soil Conditioners are materials that are added to the soil to increase the water-holding capacity and aeration of the soil. Examples are manure, compost, peat, livestock manures, leaves, and even shredded newspapers.
- Limiting and acidifying agents: Sometimes the soil is too acidic or too alkaline for the proper growth of crops. The limiting and acidifying agents are added to the soil for adjusting the pH. Calcite or powdered limestone or crushed oyster or mussel shells are added to the acidic soils to neutralize. Sulfur compounds are added to the alkaline soil to neutralize.
Effects of agrochemicals
- Agrochemicals can alter the pH of the soil.
- Overuse can kill bacteria and other organisms that are beneficial to the soil.
- These chemicals increase the nitrate content in the soil.
- These can change the chemical nature of the soil and increase its toxicity.
- These can bioaccumulate and enter food chains.
- When agrochemicals are used excessively, the soil becomes more acidic, which reduces the amount of organic matter (humus content), stunts plant growth, and can even cause greenhouse gases to be released into the environment.
- The agrochemicals make water unfit for consumption.
- These can cause algal blooms in water bodies leading to the death of fish and other aquatic animals.
- Eutrophication is caused when chemical fertilizers, which contain phosphates and nitrates, are allowed to remain in the soil and wash off into lakes, streams, and coastal waterways (the addition of excessive amounts of nutrients).
- Additionally, it promotes the growth of algae. Dead zones are facilitated by the algae, which rob the water of oxygen before decomposing and suffocating local animals.
On Human Health
- The very hazardous chemicals found in synthetic fertilizers cause biomagnification, or the accumulation of harmful substances, which worsens the health of organisms at higher levels of a food chain.
- These compounds cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscular tremors in humans.
- These cause effects on the central nervous system leading to convulsion, paralysis, and death.
- They can cause damage to the nerve, infertility, and reproductive problems.
- Birth defects are increased due to the toxicity of agrochemicals.
Agrochemical usage in India
India used roughly 61 million tonnes of fertilizer in FY20, of which 55% was urea. Currently, the nation produces 42-45 million tonnes of fertilizer, while imports total about 18 million tonnes.
The Centre provides a subsidy for urea fertilizer based on the cost of manufacturing at each facility. Manufacturers of fertilizers are required to sell them.
The Insecticides Act, of 1968, and the Insecticides Rules, of 1971, govern the use of pesticides in India.
In 2021, the Indian pesticides market had a value of about INR 212 billion, and it is anticipated to grow.
The fertilizer business increasingly positions itself as a part of the answer to these convergent global crises, even though chemical fertilizers made from fossil fuels, or “fossil fertilizers,” are an underappreciated cause of climate change, biodiversity loss, and hazardous pollution.
Agrochemical producers are supporting carbon capture and storage (CCS) as well as hydrogen and ammonia derived from fossil fuels to ensure additional revenue streams for business-as-usual production.
When industrial agriculture and fossil fuels should be phased out, these tendencies run the risk of increasing our dependence on them.
Amid a global emergency, this new business model expands the fossil economy, pushing humanity and ecosystems further beyond the planet’s carrying capacity.
Recent Government Initiatives for Sustainable Farming:
- Promotion of Alternate Nutrients for Agriculture Management Yojana (PRANAM)
- Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY)
- Liquid Nano-Urea Fertiliser
The approach should be taken to shift chemical methods to non-chemical methods for enhancing soil fertility.
- The use of biofertilizers (like Rhizobium) should be encouraged because they are economical, environmentally beneficial, and may be produced on the farm itself when needed in large quantities.
- They fix up to 40-50 kg of nitrogen and boost crop output by 10–40%.
- Nano urea should be promoted.
The use of agrochemicals should be regulated. Farmland should maintain and regulate proper storage facilities, labeling, emergency cleanup equipment, applications, and disposal process.
For the purchase of agrochemicals, prior approved registration or Government-issued permits should be taken.
- By establishing rural fertilizer banks, fertilizer use can be controlled. For the purchase of fertilizer, Aadhaar-linked accounts should be necessary, and digital sales records can be retained and used for crop observation.
A proper management policy is required for encouraging the judicious use of agrochemicals.
Appropriate and scientifically sound measures should be taken to detoxify and degrade chemical residues in the environment.
Organic Farming should be promoted as a substitute for Agrochemicals.
- Since organic farming uses only sustainable and organic methods to encourage the healthy growth of crops, it can be utilized as an alternative to agrochemicals.
- In integrated organic farming, waste products from one process are recycled as nutrients for other processes, resulting in zero waste production.
- This permits the most effective use of resources and improves production efficiency.
Other farming techniques like vertical farming and zero-budget natural farming (ZBNF) should be encouraged and promoted more.
-Article written by Swathi Satish
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