The fertility of Nepalese
soil is fast being eroded by the excessive use of chemical fertilizers and the
adoption of unscientific agricultural methods at a time when the deteriorating
quality of foodgrains and vegetables is posing a grave problem for the health
of human beings.
Increased use of chemical
fertilizers in agriculture has brought about a decrease in the numbers of
beneficial life forms available in the soil, leading to an increase in the
resistance capability of harmful insects, making them more hazardous than
Since continuous crop
cultivation results in a progressive decline in soil fertility, sustainable
agricultural productivity requires sustained measures to improve
fertility. This means that chemical fertilizers used should be tailored
to the soil and the crops being grown, and special attention should be paid to
the use of organic fertilizers.
No doubt, the production
and use of chemical fertilizers were a great help in bringing about a green
revolution against the backdrop of burgeoning human population in South
Asia. This resulted in favorable publicity for the use of chemical
fertilizers in agriculture. Farmers looked upon fertilizer as a boon,
because even limited quantities were enough to meet the nutrient requirements
of crops and plants; it was easy to transport and handle and it produced quick
results. But the flip side is that the levels of productivity have not
been sustained even though progressively large quantities of chemical
fertilizer were used, and the soil has become more hardened and sterile, say
Apart from market forces,
Melar says that science and technology will be the main engine for the 20-year
long agricultural perspective plan announced by HMG two years ago; and that
although agricultural planning did take place in the decade from 1950 to 1960,
all the foreign aid resources were used up in the hiring of foreign
technicians and putting in chemical fertilizer. For these reasons, agriculture
could not gather the expected momentum.
Even though the government
has spent a great deal of money every year on the import of chemical
fertilizers, and has gone to a great deal of trouble to take fertilizers to
farmers in every nook and cranny of the country from the hilly areas to the
Terai, fertilizers have still not been available to farmers when they need it,
and they have had to wander from pillar to post in search of it, even though
per hectare use of fertilizer was minimal compared to other South Asian
countries. As a consequence, a tendency has arisen among farmers of
using whatever chemical fertilizers they can lay their hands on, with scant
regard for the recommended quantities for different crops, the time, the type
of crop nutrients needed, and other factors.
Fertilizers rich in the
main crop nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potash should be used on
crops in the recommended quantities But farmers generally end up using
urea fertilizer as it is more easily available in the market. Thus,
while chemical fertilizers are not properly utilized on the one hand, organic
fertilizer, which is readily available in one's own village, is not made use
of at all. This has serious implication from the economic and
environmental points of view.
According to statistics
from the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, the use of chemical fertilizers
in Nepal has grown by 100 percent in the past twenty five years. Some
three decades ago, 494 metric tones of chemical fertilizer was used in the
country annually. In recent years, this figure has risen to over 50,000
According to Bhola Man Singh Basnet, an official at the
Agricultural Research Council, an unchanging cropping pattern based on
chemical fertilizer use instead of the use of organic fertilizer leads to the deterioration of the
physical and chemical properties of the soil; plants will not be able to
draw the elements they need from it; the resulting destruction of beneficial
microorganisms results in a loss of the soil's ability to retain water and
the soil begins to harden and crack.
Brown plant hoppers (BPH)
have destroyed some 9910 metric tones of foodgrain in a total of 25, 600 ha.
of land in ten districts of the Terai recently. The main reason for
this is unscientific use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides which has
brought about an imbalance in nature, thus giving the BPH a chance to
peroliferate, says head of the Crop Division Bharat Prasad Upadhyaya.
Before the widespread use
of chemical fertilizers, BPH was food for spiders, cicadas, and other predator
insects. But these natural predators have been decimated by the careless
use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and as a result, the BPH
population has shot up.
In the face of this
development, farmers should remedy the situation by using organic
fertilizer,says Upadhyaya. While most farmers are ignorant about
microscopic nutrients, not enough research has taken place in the country on
the availability of such nutrients in the soil either. Continuous use
of organic fertilizers builds up reserves of nutrients in the soil, and makes
possible a scaling down of chemical fertilizer use.
Cow dung is a main source
of organic fertilizer and can play a big role in sustaining soil
fertility. But dung is now used as an alternative to fuelwood. At
the same time, because of problems with fodder and pasturage, farmers in the
Terai, the bread basket of the country, have become more and more discouraged
from the animal husbandry that provides the dung.
The use of draught animals
is also slowly giving way to tractors and mechanical threshers, and has
brought about a reduction in the organic matter available to the soil in the
form of cow dung.