Use of Ag Biologicals in Indian Agriculture – ‘Challenges and way forward’
In the recent years, keenness on using Agricultural Biologicals in India has increased many folds all the way through crop production and protection. Primarily field-oriented research studies have demonstrated the commercial benefits of these products and dependable performance in integrated crop, pest, and disease management systems. It is observed that India occupies a comparatively healthier position in the arena of Ag biologicals, in terms of growth of usage, percentage share of the total Ag product market and in research publications. Most of the Ag Biologicals are derived from living organisms such as plants, insects, animals, microbes, and others. They can be altered to improve suitability for agricultural uses. These naturally occurring solutions can complement on fertilizer use efficiency and reduce pesticide load to help farmers to improve crop health and productivity to a greater extent while limiting the environmental impact of agriculture. Naturally occurring pheromones, biostimulants, natural proteins and chitin helps to manage pests through nontoxic mechanisms or by modifying the behaviour. Microbials such as fungi, bacteria, virus and protozoa are more importantly used biologicals for pest and disease management. Microbial products are derived from naturally occurring microorganism such as bacteria, fungi or nematodes can be applied on crops to protect plants from pestsand diseases or in the soil to enhance plant productivity and soil fertility. Each individual strain is relatively specific to a particular target pest like weeds, insects, and diseases. They have the potential to deliver sustainable, cost effective solutions that lead to increased yield with meagre input. Commercially available microbial products especially fungal based products controls thrips, mite and coleopteran pests of crops. Biofertilizers having beneficial microbes can help to improve plant access to use nitrogen, phosphate, potassium and other nutrients by mounting along with roots to enhance the plant uptake. Biological products can be a major component in the integrated pest, disease, and crop management.
In India, the Ag Biological products market is growing progressively at the rate of 14 % than the chemicals of about 2 %, although their volumes are still less critical. There are many national and international companies are introducing innovative technology products, their market is growing, and prominence will be more in the coming years. Biological products are increasingly used in combination with traditional bio inputs like compost manure, vermicompost etc., in both conventional and organic agriculture.
Ag Biologicals yet facing issues on regulatory approvals since suitable guidelines are not available. Certain bacterial, fungal, and viral formulations designated for pest and disease control were brought under guidelines of Central Insecticide Board (CIB), Ministry of Agriculture for registration. Whereas bio and organic fertilizers were kept under Fertilizer Control Order (FCO) 1985 in section 3 of essential commodities by Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India for approval. New characters of bacteria, fungi, and their combinations (consortia) cannot find a way to be registered since guidelines are not available. Even in bio-fertilizers category, only FCO prescribed microbes are approved for use through State Agriculture Departments. Scientists in the Universities/ Research Institutes and Establishments working on biological products research should be able to submit the data and get their new Ag Biologicals approved for use. Present guidelines need to be revised as per the requirements. Counterfeit bio products (laced with chemical pesticides) need to be clogged which is dragging behind the potential use of biologicals in Agriculture.