Discretion is the best part of value

By Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha Courtesy of Island

In his novel published in 1891, tiled The light that failed ”, Rudyard Kipling wrote the phrase “bite the bullet” to express the idea that courage can be acquired by “biting a bullet”! As it stands, should the President and the government continue to “bite the bullet” or compromise in all sincerity, because discretion is the best part of bravery.

Farmers have a real grievance in that there is no fertilizer, organic or inorganic! And organic fertilizer is not something that can be produced overnight. They are adamantly armed, and it would seem very likely that paddy and other arable crops will suffer huge production losses. Farmers in Mahaweli and other irrigated lands have taken the unshakeable position that unless fertilizer is available, they will not cultivate Maha this season. Crop losses without fertilizers and other inputs can reach 40 to 50% or even more, leading to a very catastrophic national situation. The same goes for plantations and other crops. Expert calculations show that tea yields could also drop by 50%!

More importantly, there is no readily available organic material, plant, animal or otherwise to meet the nutrient demand of the three million hectares of crops! Most organic materials of plant origin contain only about 1% nitrogen, or even less. Assuming, however, that with animal dung and other sources of organic matter the figure rises to 1.5% and that on average one hectare of cropland requires 100 kg of nitrogen per year, the annual demand total organic fertilizer should be at least 200 million tons, or even more. to meet nitrogen requirements.

The average N demand for tea is at least 200 kg / ha / year, and some vegetables and other crops also require more than 100 kg / ha / year in N. The question then is how such a huge demand organic fertilizers must be satisfied locally.

The recent fiasco of an attempt to import an organic fertilizer made from algae from a Chinese company, Seawin Biotechnologies, is well known. Samples tested locally have been reported to be contaminated with a harmful bacteria, Erwinia, and the import has been stopped. Incidentally, the local Chinese embassy had the audacity to challenge our quarantine authority’s report that the culture of the microbe could not have been done within the three or four day period indicated, but a senior professor from microbiology of Peradeniya University and other specialists in the field have debunked the Embassy’s claim!

The supplier claims that the fertilizer is heated to a temperature of 600 degrees centigrade to kill germs. If so, how was the living pathogen detected. At this temperature, not only microbes but also nitrogen compounds should decompose! So how is nitrogen renewed?

According to the company’s brochure on ‘Algae Pelleted Compound Fertilizers’, there are seven fertilizer formulations available for sale that include nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P2O5) and potassium (K2O), and the nitrogen is reconstituted as ammonia, urea or nitrate! (Please see table)

So obviously it is a mixture of granular fertilizer of chemical and organic material. The supplier does not claim that the product is organic, and he cannot, apart from “organic matter” and “seaweed extract”, the rest being inorganic chemicals! So, clearly, after heating to high temperature and losing nitrogen compounds, inorganic nitrogen chemicals must be added to get the required nutrient composition. Thus, the product is no longer entirely “organic”. So who is cheating on whom?

In addition, these algae would be mainly harvested in the Yellow Sea off the coast of the city of Quindío, an area heavily polluted by metropolitan waste and excessively contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and carbon. mercury. However, the status of these heavy metals is not mentioned in the fertilizer composition table in the brochure. Also, although the supplier apparently promised a 10% nitrogen content in the formulation, it is impossible to get such a high value from algae! Overall, then, there are gray areas in the fertilizer business.

The president and government are apparently gradually giving in to the pressure of nationwide demand for fertilizer from farmers, as evidenced by a recent article according to which chemical fertilizers for corn will be imported. So what about tea and other cultures?

According to the “vine”, there is evidence that some nano (chemical) fertilizers must also be imported and the Tea Research Institute was asked to determine the amount of ammonium sulfate as a source of nitrogen fertilizer needed for the tea from the country, apparently because some stocks of the latter are available. Ammonium sulfate contains only 21% nitrogen while that of urea is 48%. Due to production interference from COVID, urea prices rose 35-43% from April to September 2021, and the same is expected for other simple fertilizers.

The price of ammonium sulfate in the world is now around US $ 200 / metric ton while that of urea is around US $ 450. Thus, in terms of N content in fertilizers, the cost should be comparable with the exception of transport. However, excessive application of ammonium sulfate can be detrimental as sulfur added to the soil inhibits the uptake of phosphorus by crops, which affects growth and yield! Urea is the best option as a nitrogen fertilizer when large amounts are needed.

In conclusion, it is the ignorance and stubbornness of the authorities that pushed the country into this calamity. Minister after Minister are obsessed with the was a visa ” myth as it emerges from their statements both in Parliament and outside! It is the general belief, without proof that, agrochemicals are the cause of many noncommunicable diseases.

No politician talks about indoor air pollution, the main environmental risk factor for health locally and globally. Records reveal that nearly 3.5 million premature noncommunicable deaths, for example, in 2017 were due to stroke, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, respiratory tract infections inferior and diabetes.

The President should, as a matter of priority, obtain a report from the health authorities on this issue of agrochemicals and health. This false belief was compounded by the initial suspicion that Rajarata’s chronic kidney disease (CKD) was caused by agrochemicals, but none of the research supported this claim. Research evidence gathered over several years, particularly during the period 2010 and 2018 by no less than five groups of researchers has established that the most likely etiolating agent is hard water and fluoride in some wells dug in France. especially on the heights, as those who drank such water were essentially those who contaminated the disease.

Those who have consumed water from streams, reservoirs or wells dug in the plains have not contacted the disease! Some of the research conducted by the current coordinator of CKD activities at the Ministry of Health also supported this claim!

However, it is sad that the health authorities have not informed the President, the Minister of Health and the government in general on this vital issue! If this had happened, the president would not have rushed into this decision to “go organic” practically overnight!

About Marco C. Nichols

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