The Chart below shows worldwide growth in fertilizer use. Notice India' s 54 percent increase in fertilizer use over the last ten years.
Chart below shows India' s wheat output. The red bar highlights the last ten years (where India's fertilizer use increase 54 percent). The green bar highlights the start of India' s “green revolution”.
Why is India using so much more fertilizer without any real increase in production? See article below.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Green Revolution in India Wilts as Subsidies Backfire.
FEBRUARY 23, 2010
Green Revolution in India Wilts as Subsidies Backfire
By GEETA ANAND
SOHIAN, India—India's Green Revolution is withering.
In the 1970s, India dramatically increased food production, finally allowing this giant country to feed itself. But government efforts to continue that miracle by encouraging farmers to use fertilizers have backfired, forcing the country to expand its reliance on imported food.
Popularized during the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, fertilizers helped boost crop yields and transformed India into a nation that could feed itself. But now their overuse is degrading the farmland. WSJ's Geeta Anand reports.
India has been providing farmers with heavily subsidized fertilizer for more than three decades. The overuse of one type—urea—is so degrading the soil that yields on some crops are falling and import levels are rising. So are food prices, which jumped 19% last year. The country now produces less rice per hectare than its far poorer neighbors: Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Farmers spread the rice-size urea granules by hand or from tractors. They pay so little for it that in some areas they use many times the amount recommended by scientists, throwing off the chemistry of the soil, according to multiple studies by Indian agricultural experts.
Like humans, plants need balanced diets to thrive. Too much urea oversaturates plants with nitrogen without replenishing other nutrients that are vitally important, including phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, magnesium and calcium.
As the soil's fertility has declined, farmers under pressure to increase output have spread even more urea on their land.
Kamaljit Singh is a 55-year-old farmer in the town of Marauli Kalan in the state of Punjab, the breadbasket of India. He says farmers feel stuck. "The soil health is deteriorating, but we don't know how to make it better," he says. "As the fertility of the soil is declining, more fertilizer is required."
[Before India' s “Green Revolution”]
In the early years after India gained independence in 1947, the country couldn't even dream of feeding its population. Importing food wasn't possible because India lacked the cash to pay. India relied on food donated by the U.S. government.
[India' s “Green Revolution” begins in 1967]
In 1967, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imported 18,000 tons of hybrid wheat seeds from Mexico. The effect was miraculous. The wheat harvest that year was so bountiful that grain overflowed storage facilities.
Those seeds required chemical fertilizers to maximize yield. ...
[India' s “Green Revolution” today]
In the northern state of Punjab, Bhupinder Singh, a turbaned, gray-bearded 55-year-old farmer, stood barefoot in his wheat field in December and pointed to the corner where he had just spread a 110-pound bag of urea.
"Without the urea, my crop looks sick," he said, picking up a few stalks of the young wheat crop and twirling them in his fingers. "The soil is getting weaker and weaker over the last 10 to 15 years. We need more and more urea to get the same yield."
Mr. Singh farms 10 acres in Sohian, a town about 25 miles from the industrial city of Ludhiana. He said his yields of rice have fallen to three tons per acre, from 3.3 tons five years ago. By using twice as much urea, he's been able to squeeze a little higher yield of wheat from the soil—two tons per acre, versus 1.7 tons five years ago.
He said both the wheat and rice harvests should be bigger, considering that he's using so much more urea today than he did five years ago. Adding urea doesn't have the effect it did in the past, he said, but it's so cheap that it's better than adding nothing at all.
"The future is not good here," he said, shaking his head.
Balvir Singh, an agriculture development officer for Punjab state, says it is as if farmers have become addicted to urea.
"One farmer sees another's field looking greener, so he adds more urea," he says. "A farmer will become bankrupt, but he will not stop using urea."
Deteriorating soil health leading to desertification in India
Caritas.org reports about desertification in India.
Desertification in India
Half the land in India is now affected by desertification and this impairs the ability of land to support life. It is particularly devastating because of its self-reinforcing nature.
The causes of desertification are extensive cultivation of one crop, use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, shifting cultivation without adequate period of recovery, industrial and mining activities, overgrazing, logging and illegal felling, forest fires and unsustainable water management.
Vegetation plays an essential role in protecting the soil, especially trees and shrubs, because their long life and capacity to develop powerful root systems assure protection against soil erosion. Their disappearance can considerably increase the vulnerability of the land to turn into a wasteland.
Gentledude.blogspot.com reports about Desertification In South India.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Desertification In South India
Kannekal and Bommanahal are like any other village in South India 150 years ago. A fertile soil that yielded two crops a year, abundant rainfall, and plentiful of grass for the livestock. Centuries ago wars have been fought for the fertile lands. But Hagari, the river that flows by the villages had severe floods for a couple of years. And with the floods came sand. The sand dunes spread across the area pretty quickly, thanks to strong winds in the area. Thus started the process of desertification. Soon rainfall decreased in the area and the sand dunes started spreading quickly. The inhabitants of these villages continued with indiscriminate use of water and instead of taking steps to conserve water, used up even more water for irrigation using bore wells. This resulted in an even faster spreading of sand dunes. Now thousands of acres of land is covered by these sand dunes.
Now look at what happened with India' s population since the Green Revolution began.
Seems like India has two choices:
1) Switch to more sustainable farming methods and trying to feed twice the population with pre-“green revolution” grain production levels.
2) Continue “green revolution” farming methods and watch deteriorating soil health and desertification slowly eat away at grain production.
Both of these choices involve a lot of people not having food any more. Seems India is somewhat screwed.