Govt saves environment and Rs. 100 billion by rejecting agrochemicals | Sunday Observer

Govt saves environment and Rs. 100 billion by rejecting agrochemicals

31 October, 2021

Agriculture Minister Mahindananada Aluthgamage said the ministry is preparing a circular to facilitate paying compensation to farmers in case they suffer losses due to the organic fertiliser program of the Government.

“We have estimated the standard yield for one hectare of paddy land. The farmers can get compensation if there is a loss subject to these estimates,” he said at a media briefing at the President’s Media Centre last week. The briefing also attended by State Minister Shasheendra Rajapaksa, Prof. Nilwala Kottegoda, the brain behind nano liquid nitrogen and Director General of Agriculture Department Dr. Ajantha De Silva, was moderated by President’s Media Spokesman Kingsley Ratnayake.

No negative impact

Minister Aluthgamage said, however, Director General of the Agriculture Department Dr. Ajantha de Silva, as an expert on the subject, has assured that if the farmers are provided with fertiliser or the plant nutrients as planned, there will not be any negative impact on the Maha season.

“Prof. Nilwala Kottegoda said 70 percent of the chemicals used today gets accumulated in the environment and only 30 percent is absorbed by the plant, but with the nano technology, the fertiliser given to the plant is absorbed by the plant. There is a significant reduction in the quantity to be used as well,” he said, explaining as to why the Government decided to import nano fertiliser from Gujarat.

On claims of threats to food security, he said there is a surplus of over one million metric tons of rice in the last Yala season. “Hence, even if there is a drop in the yield as claimed, we don’t need to import rice. We have sufficient stocks. There is no need to have undue fears over food security. The Opposition is trying to get mileage by trying to create a boogeyman”, the Minister said.

The Minister said the President knew the damage such a decision would bring on his political career, but he is firm on his resolve to revert to green agriculture. He is trying to swim against the tide for the sake of the future generations and the health of all including the farmer.

Petty politics

“It is a crime to drag the farmers to the streets when they should be working in their fields”, the Minister said, criticising the petty politics of the Opposition and added that the farmers in the North and the East never asked for fertiliser subsidies. They have started cultivations for the Maha season and 95 percent of farming in Kilinochchi has begun. They are doing organic farming with their own fertiliser. Even in schools, their children are taught about the values of organic farming, the Minister said.

The Government spent Rs.35 billion to import chemical fertiliser for a one season last year. This is in addition to expenditures by the private sector. Due to Covid-19 and other factors, the fertiliser prices in the world market have shot up. “It would have cost us Rs.100 billion today”, the Minister said. But instead, the country is producing 50 percent of the fertiliser demand domestically, saving billions of rupees as a result.

Minister Aluthgamage said the Government will maintain a limited stock of agrochemicals to be used in an emergency such as in a sudden major crop damage by fungi or pest attacks. “There are no organic solutions for such calamities. We will maintain those areas as inorganic patches,” he said.


Sri Lanka owns patent on nano-nitrogen – Prof. Kottegoda

Prof. Nilwala Kottegoda of the SLINTECH who is the brain behind nan onitrogen said,” SLINTECH is a private-public partnership. The nano liquid fertiliser was developed at SLINTECH by us when no one had heard about the technology. The nano technologyis used to decrease water solubility of fertiliser and improve absorption through roots”.

“Heyleys was involved with our research, but even the company was not sure of sponsoring mass production of this at the time. That is to be expected. Working with new technology involves risks. Private companies are reluctant to venture into such a territory.”

“Later, an Indian company which has seen our research paper, was interested in acquiring the technology. However, it is not correct to say we sold our patent to the Indian company. It was just a technology transfer. We still have the patent.”

We can start local production of liquid fertiliser, not just nitrogen, but the other plant nutrients. It is time to go for the next generation of agriculture. We need a private investor. The State cannot bring in funds, but if the Government can give the buyback guarantee, it is not hard to find a private investor.”

“Independent field trials with this nano fertiliser were done in 2011 by the Tea Research Board and Paddy Research Board. Field trials for paddy were conducted in Amapara, Kurunegala, Batticaloa and Murunkan. Best results were seen in Ampara. It showed that 25-30 percent of fertiliser can be saved by using nano fertiliser. Research on tea plantations is yet to complete, but interim results have shown that fertiliser saving is up to 50 percent and the taste of tea has also enhanced.”

“Safety of this new fertiliser on humans was also tested. The results are encouraging.”

“I am not the only one behind this invention. There were about 20 brains behind the research which invented liquid nano nitrogen at the SLINTECH. There were social media posts that the scientists behind this nano technology have become frustrated. We are not frustrated. We will continue to serve the country.”

Critics of green agriculture in for a surprise – Dr. Ajantha De Silva

Agriculture Department Director General Dr. Ajantha De Silva said, “We have appointed diagnostic teams for 25 districts each to closely monitor the green agriculture program, and identify problematic areas.”

“These teams comprise Mahaweli officers and provincial agrarian officers. The crop cultivations will get compost, liquid bio fertiliser, Phosphorous and nano fertiliser at proper intervals as planned. We don’t expect a major calamity as claimed by critics of this program. Fertiliser is just one factor deciding the yield of a crop cultivation. It can get affected by natural disasters, sun light and the rain.”

“The Government took a decision to embark on this green revolution in 2019, to achieve nitrogen neutrality among other objectives. This was scientifically planned, data was collected on natural resources that can be utilised.”

“The world leaders have commended the move. International environment groups praised us for the endeavour. Without criticising, everyone must back this historic decision.”

Sri Lanka to start producing nano fertiliser

State Minister Shasheendra Rajapaksa said, “Farmers in Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee have begun cultivation in the Maha season. Farmers have not abandoned their farming as claimed by the Opposition or JVP backed trade unions. We have started sending liquid bio fertiliser. There was a delay, but that is being rectified now.”

“Other fertiliser stocks will be sent to farming lands without a delay. We will support the SLINTECH to manufacture liquid nano fertiliser in the country. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has reiterated his desire to manufacture everything possible within the country, to empower the local manufacturing sector.”

“Within the next two seasons, we would rectify all issues at the implementation level and organic farming will be popular among the farmers who are the beneficiaries of this whole program.”