The overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and the green revolution of the 1860s and 1870s (also known as the new seed-fertilizer water technology) became more serious in the context of India two decades after their widespread use in the West Soil, its fertility fall, pollute the air and water, and bring harm to our health and the environment. Ironically, despite the disastrous consequences of the Green Revolution in the northern part of the country in recent years, the government seems intent on spreading the consequences of this chemical seed fertilizer technique to other parts of the country. However, the health and environmental hazards of chemical fertilizers have been confirmed by studies conducted from time to time, posing serious challenges to sustainable development. From this perspective, switching from agricultural systems that require high doses of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to biofertilizers and organic farming appears to be a viable alternative, as the latter are considered health and environmentally friendly.
Fertilizers and the Environment
Chemical or synthetic fertilizers are basically salts by definition and thus expected to be harmful to agriculture in the long run. However, their manufacturers are promoting them amid concerns that they will replenish nutrients in the soil. In contrast, studies from time to time show that synthetic fertilizers often only replenish nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, while depleting other nutrients and minerals naturally present in fertile soils. Declines in soil fertility, as revealed by these studies, are also evidenced by the continued use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the fields.
Excessive use of phosphorus fertilizers will cause soil hardening, because phosphorus is insoluble in water, and alkaline fertilizers such as sodium nitrate and alkaline slag will form alkalinity in the soil, thereby reducing soil fertility. The increasing use of chemical fertilizers can also lead to imbalances in the amount of specific nutrients in the soil, which can adversely affect soil fertility and vegetation.
Soil fertility can also be reduced due to things like pesticides used to kill unwanted herbs in the field, pesticides designed to kill pests, and chemicals with biocidal activity affecting rodents. Pesticides cause land degradation in several ways. They kill useful species such as earthworms and microorganisms, which through their activities maintain the natural fertility of the soil. Bacteria, or microbes, in the soil normally break down organic matter into plant nutrients and help convert nitrogen from the air into a form usable by plants. There are other useful soil bacteria, such as “pathogenic microbes,” that control cutworms, canary bugs, grubs, and other parasites. A reduction in soil organic matter can also lead to soil hardening, which, in addition to affecting vegetation, reduces infiltration and water retention capacity.
In addition, the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides directly or indirectly pollutes aquatic systems. Nitrogen, for example, is toxic to fish and invertebrates. It is also toxic to humans. People who rely on rural wells for their drinking water are more prone to diseases such as methemoglobinemia and blue baby syndrome, which damages blood cells and can be traced to high levels of nitrates when groundwater is polluted. The herbicide atrazine, one of the most commonly used pesticides, is known to be a common water pollutant. Insecticides developed in recent years have been found to be more toxic to aquatic insects, plankton, crustaceans and fish. Even low concentrations of the herbicide atrazine can be detrimental to entire aquatic systems by contaminating streams, ponds and estuaries. It may inhibit the growth of algae and plankton that affect the diet and reproduction of fish or other bodies of water.
It has been observed that chemical pesticides no longer kill target pests, which have developed resistance to absorbing the residues of such pesticides, while non-target pests, birds and microorganisms that are beneficial to agriculture and the environment have developed resistance . Pesticides such as organochlorines, while fragile, hit non-target organisms relatively faster than DDT. They enter the human food chain and accumulate in species such as eagles, falcons and kites. The recent decline in the number of eagles is responsible for this. There have been cases of kite and vulture declines in India due to the use of pesticides from US multinationals. It was only recently banned after protests from ecologists.
Likewise, the use of pesticides not only pollutes ecosystems, pollutes soil and water systems, but also pollutes the air. Because, even careful spraying of insecticide can make it into the air in the form of vapor. As a result, bees and other pollinators risk poisoning. Therefore, in addition to posing a threat to biodiversity affecting plants and animals, fertilizers and pesticides also damage the environment through air, water and soil pollution.
Chemical Fertilizers, Biological Fertilizers and Our Health
Excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers can also affect our health by leaving residues in the food chain. There is evidence that pesticide residues in vegetables can cause chronic health problems in humans, such as cancer and other systemic dysfunction. The hazards of residues in food and water extend to a wider population than just farmers.
Researchers conducted a 12-year comparison of organically grown and chemically grown foods and found that synthetic nitrogen fertilizers left vegetables with levels of toxic nitrates at least 16 times higher than organically grown vegetables. Nitrates and pesticide residues contain carcinogenic or carcinogenic elements. Omega-3 elements in vegetables can protect us from heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. But in chemically grown foods, it is decreasing every day. Apparently, these diseases were uncommon before World War II, before the use of chemical fertilizers.
Scientists have discovered that the minerals contained in food are essential to our health. They keep us free from disease. More vitamins and calories are not enough to keep us alive. But research shows that chemical fertilizers and pesticides can destroy essential minerals in crops and vegetables. Chemically grown vegetables contain much less of these minerals than vegetables grown under organic cultivation systems. Therefore, some people think that the food produced by modern agriculture will only fill the stomach, but still not enough nutrition.
Likewise, studies by researchers in the United States and the United Kingdom over the past seven decades have concluded that organic fruits and vegetables contain 27 percent more vitamin C than chemically grown fruits and vegetables. Plus, they always contain more minerals and less toxic nitrates.
Biofertilizers and biopesticides as alternatives
Unlike synthetic fertilizers, biofertilizers do not cause nasty problems to our health and ecosystem. Biofertilizers include animal wastes of biological or organic origin, such as cow dung, pest compost, dhanicha (green manure), organic waste, crop residues, manure, etc. The use of biofertilizers restores the natural fertility of the soil without harming earthworms and microbes. Plus, these fertilizers don’t leave toxic residues in food. Far from it, they retain natural minerals that the plant absorbs from the soil.
Biofertilizers like pest compost will increase soil fertility and prevent soil hardening. Pests and living microorganisms in the soil can also destroy nitrogen that is naturally available in the air for plants to use. Again, this will help to allow rainwater to seep in rather than cause waterlogging. Using biofertilizers has little detrimental effect on groundwater because very little nitrogen leaches into the soil to contaminate the water.
Again, using plant and animal waste from the field as fertilizer will clean the environment. Organic waste piled up everywhere can be used as compost to reduce environmental pollution. In addition, sediments from ponds and aquatic systems can be used as biofertilizers and pesticides. This will clean aquatic systems while increasing field productivity.
Compared with toxic chemical pesticides, biopesticides are prepared from natural biological resources such as plants and standardized microorganisms, without any harmful effects. Local biopesticides such as neem leaf and oil, karanj (derris indica) extract and oil, cow urine can be used as insecticides and fungicides. Unlike chemical pesticides, they do not attack non-target pests and do not pollute the environment.
The preparations of neem include neem cake, neem kernel, neem oil and so on. Neem leaves and oil have been used by farmers of the Indian subcontinent as an effective insecticide and antiseptic since time immemorial. Scientists in India, the United States and Europe have discovered neem’s many properties as a nasty pest control agent. Research has shown that instead of killing pests all at once, neem acts as a pest repellant and an ovulation deterrent, meaning that the pests do not spread their eggs on plants to which neem extract has been applied.
Karanj oil and preparations made from it (now available from companies that manufacture them) are effective insecticides and acaricides. Preparations made from karanj are effective in controlling various types of mites that are harmful to plants, such as red spider mite, scarlet mite, yellow mite, etc.
The development of hybrid seeds for cereals, legumes and other crops, while increasing productivity and supporting the country’s growing hungry population, has since the 1960s required greater use of chemical fertilizers, some of which are derived from developed countries imported. After two decades of the green revolution, it was found that soils were losing their fertility, more and more chemical fertilizers were needed for high-yielding seed varieties (HYV) to increase productivity, and as pests developed at an increasing rate, the use of pesticides Doses are also increasing to resist. Today, the situation is so dire that productivity cannot be increased without exceeding dangerous levels of fertilizer use affecting health and the environment, especially in regions such as Haryana and Punjab where per capita fertilizer consumption is very high. Given the hazards of synthetic or chemical fertilizers and pesticides mentioned above, the question arises, should we continue to use HYV seed fertilizer technology? If not, what are the alternatives? In the current situation, an organic farming system using indigenous rather than HYV seeds, bio-fertilizers and local pesticides seems to be the only solution. It is high time both the federal and state governments wake up from their slumber and promote and publicize organic farming systems free from the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.